WALLINGFORD — As the number of people vaccinated for COVID-19 grows, town health officials are continuing their efforts to reach vulnerable populations.
According to the state Department of Public Health, 64.79 percent of Wallingford residents had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of May 26.
The Wallingford Health Department stopped running in-person clinics at the Wallingford Senior Center to focus on mobile clinics and reaching homebound residents, pivoting at around the time the Hartford Healthcare mass vaccination center at the Oakdale Theatre opened in early March.
“The Hartford Healthcare center has so much vaccine,” said Vanessa Bautista, the Wallingford Health Department’s chief sanitarian, “that it wasn't really worth it for us to vaccinate 100 or 200 (people), when they can do more than 1,000 at a time.”
Health officials have been working closely with the Spanish Community of Wallingford to conduct mobile clinics. Clinics at SCOW began in mid-April. At first, it was mostly the Hispanic population that sought vaccines through SCOW, but now it’s more of a mix, Bautista said.
Bautista said the SCOW clinics were effective in reaching vulnerable residents who may have been afraid of reaching out or going to hospitals and pharmacies.
Vaccination is available to residents free of charge regardless of insurance or immigration status, Bautista said.Homebound visits
The health department also has been working to reach individuals who are unable to leave their home without difficulty.
Bautista said that people usually are homebound due to advanced age, illness or disability.
In order to qualify for homebound vaccination, a person must meet certain eligibility criteria, she said.
They must be physically unable to go to a vaccination clinic or mass vaccination site, with or without assistance, and they must have no history of severe allergic reactions requiring the use of an epinephrine auto injector (epi pen).
The state Department of Public Health set up a website for those who are homebound and are seeking vaccination, https://dphsubmissions.ct.gov/homebound. Residents who cannot register online for homebound vaccinations can contact the Wallingford Health Department at 203-294-2065.
Once a homebound individual signs up, the health department schedules a visit with two staff members — a nurse and a health educator.
The nurse goes over the consent form and medical history with the patient. Once all the documents are filled out, the nurse administers the one-shot Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
“We don't have the capability of sending our staff to do the second shot,” Bautista said.
The nurse and the health educator wait for about 15-30 minutes after vaccination is administered, in case there are any allergic reactions.
Bautista said it’s mostly elderly residents seeking homebound visits, but also young to middle aged adults with disabilities — some of whom couldn't move from their bed or speak — who lived at home with their parents, she said.Where to find vaccines
The public’s overall biggest concern — getting an appointment — has been resolved with facilities opening up and providing vaccination, she said.
“That was the main issue before,” she said, “people calling and basically saying, ‘I can't get into the Hartford Healthcare. I tried my hospital and they're not letting me in,’ and we were so booked with our clinics ourselves, so we couldn't get those people in. But right now, I would say that's being resolved because of the facilities offering the vaccines.”
Walgreens pharmacy, 284 S. Colony Road, Rite Aid pharmacy 605 N. Colony Road, CVS pharmacy, 891 N. Colony Road, Walmart, 844 N. Colony Road, and Stop and Shop, 930 N. Colony Road are among locations offering COVID-19 vaccination.
There is also a government website called Vaccine Finder that shows all clinics with available times by location. The website is vaccinefinder.gov.
The Wallingford Health Department's webpage https://www.wallingford.ct.us/government/departments/health-department/ provides further information on homebound vaccination and current mobile clinics.