Hartford HealthCare has agreements with towns and property owners to open four new mass vaccination centers statewide — including one at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.
The centers will open and operate based on pending vaccine supply, HHC officials said Wednesday.
“We are in position to dramatically scale up, and we are completely committed to using our resources in this way,” Hartford HealthCare President Jeff Flaks told reporters Wednesday. “This is Connecticut at its best . . . our community rising to the challenge to protect citizens. It’s part of our commitment to have no community left behind.”
The health care network, and parent of MidState Medical Center in Meriden, announced the opening Wednesday of a mega-vaccine site at Liberty Square in New Britain between Feb, 22 and March 1.
In addition to Liberty Square, HHC secured rights to properties at the Xfinity Center, Foxwoods, Central High School in Bridgeport and the Oakdale in Wallingford, Flaks said. The new sites are in addition to mass vaccine sites already opened at the Hartford Convention Center and the Torrington Armory.
Wallingford Public Health Director Stephen Civitelli was scheduled to meet with Hartford HealthCare officials Wednesday afternoon to walk the Oakdale site.
“We will learn more regarding the site setup and the involvement of surrounding communities in the coming days,” Civitelli wrote in an email.
Hartford HealthCare is now equipped to dispense 35,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines weekly and has vaccinated 82,000 people across its network. The new sites will allow the network to dispense 75,000 doses weekly, Flaks said.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced this week that those over age 65 may schedule vaccine appointments in addition to those over age 75, health care workers and first responders. Lamont expects the state’s vaccine allotment from the federal government to increase from 45,000 doses to 65,000 doses a week and is awaiting even more supply as vaccine manufacturing ramps up.
The opening of the mega vaccine center in New Britain is part of the state’s effort to break down barriers for populations that are currently underserved in the state’s vaccination rollout.
“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted older individuals and individuals in traditionally underserved communities,” state Public Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said. “We want to ensure that within this high risk group, we focus on getting vaccine to individuals within the group who come from communities that have been hardest hit by the virus, namely our Black and Latino communities. We are working with our vaccine providers and other community partners to identify underserved areas and focus vaccine resources into those areas, including providing transportation assistance and other solutions to address barriers to vaccine access.”
Speakers at Wednesday’s press conference, including New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, identified vaccine barriers for minorities and other underserved groups as a lack of transportation, technology and trust in the vaccine and/or the healthcare system. Hartford HealthCare intends to work with local health departments on dial-a-ride, computer assistance to aid vaccine scheduling, tracking, and communication services in various languages, Stewart said.
“We’re very excited for this partnership, and certain we’ll get people vaccinated much quicker,” Stewart said. “This is the central Connecticut region. We’ll make it easy to get in and out.”
HHC’s real estate arm has been working to identify potential mass vaccine sites in metropolitan areas that can be easily accessed. It has also begun running mobile centers at churches, community centers and homeless centers.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Henry Anyimadu, of The Hospital of Central Connecticut, said the virus has, unfortunately, disproportionately affected people of color.
Yet minorities are also less likely to be vaccinated, he said, referring to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that, from Dec. 14 to Jan. 14, only 5 percent of eligible African Americans and 11 percent of eligible Hispanics were vaccinated. A second study by the Pew Research Institute revealed that while about 70 percent of African Americans know someone affected by COVID, only 42 percent were willing to get the vaccine.
“I can see hope,” Anyimadu said of mass vaccination. “I see that our families can get together again, businesses can open, life can get back to some form of normalcy.”
Major retail pharmacy chains will also begin scheduling appointments for eligible persons on Friday. Connecticut is among 10 other states where CVS Health and Walgreens will begin receiving a limited amount of doses next week.
To schedule a vaccination appointment, eligible people may contact:
VAMS online system: The Vaccine Administration Management System can be used to schedule appointments at multiple clinics across the state. To make an appointment using this system, click on https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccinations---VAMS-Support
COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Assist Line: Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment assist line is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. To make an appointment, call 877-918-2224.
Hartford HealthCare: Hartford HealthCare has multiple locations throughout the state, including large clinics in the Hartford area. To make an appointment using this system, go to https://hartfordhealthcare.org/health-wellness/coronavirus/vaccine
Yale New Haven Health: Yale New Haven Hospital has multiple locations throughout the state, including large clinics in the New Haven area. To make an appointment using this system, go to https://www.ynhhs.org/patient-care/covid-19/vaccine/get-your-covid-vaccine.aspx
Walgreens: Walgreens is currently offering the vaccine at 12 different locations and will soon be adding many more across the state. To make an appointment using this system, go to https://www.walgreens.com/topic/covid19vac/CT.jsp.
CVS: CVS is currently offering the vaccine in four locations (Colchester, Putnam, Waterford, and Windsor Locks) and will be expanding to 12 more locations in the next week. To make an appointment using this system go to https://www.cvs.com/vaccine/intake/store/covid-screener/covid-qns
Walmart: Walmart will be offering the vaccine at seven locations across the state (Hartford, New Haven, North Windham, Norwalk, Torrington, Waterbury and West Haven). To make an appointment using this system, click go to https://www.walmart.com/cp/1228302