NEW LONDON — An administrative error led to some Williams School employees receiving the COVID-19 early, officials confirmed on Tuesday.
The Williams School, a private secondary school at 110 Broad St. in New London, said in a statement on Tuesday that it received an email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 24, 2020, indicating the state had identified the school as a “critical infrastructure group.”
The email indicated that the distinction meant employees were eligible for a virus vaccination.
A link was provided in the email from the CDC for the school to create an account and upload an employee roster so the agency could contact each employee to register and schedule vaccine appointments.
Once the information was provided, the school said, employees started to get individual emails from the CDC with instructions to register for their vaccine doses.
The school said the error was identified by the Ledge Light Health District, which contacted Williams School officials on Dec. 29 “with instructions to pause all vaccine registrations. This was immediately communicated to all school employees.”
Officials say the error likely occurred through the Vaccine Administration Management System, a web-based application recommended for use by the CDC to help plan virus vaccine clinics.
According to the CDC website, the VAMS system allows employers to identify essential and high-priority workers in need of vaccines and upload lists of those workers in a “bulk format.” Officials said this has likely led some entities to upload full rosters of their employees, rather than just eligible ones.
“It’s not an isolated incident,” said Stephen Mansfield, director of health for the LLHD. “We’ve heard of occurrences across the state — not necessarily where people got vaccinations, but where there was some confusion.”
Mansfield said he learned of the mistake when a fellow director of health running a clinic told him he noticed some Williams School employees had just gotten vaccinated. Mansfield said he reached out to the school, which contacted its employees and told them to cancel any upcoming vaccine appointments.
Mansfield praised the school’s employees for canceling those appointments, calling it “the right thing to do” to allow those eligible under Phase 1A of vaccine distribution to receive the first available doses.
He said after the incident, he sent an email to all chief officials in New London, highlighting who should be uploaded into the VAMS system to prevent any future potential mistakes like this one.
Mansfield said the state Department of Public Health sent a statewide correspondence on Monday that went over a lot of COVID-19-related information about vaccinations, including storage requirements and eligibility. He said the state encouraged municipalities to clearly advertise who is eligible for vaccines at the ongoing clinics across Connecticut.
Mansfield said he hopes all residents will get the vaccine, which he called “our best tool” to fight the pandemic, once it is made available to them.