SHORELINE — Connecticut residents age 65 and older have been given the green light to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but appointments are far and few between.
After this Branford-based writer registered via the VAMS website, the closest vaccine location was Clinton, and the earliest appointment was April 30. Other locations within a 20-mile radius were either not accepting appointments or just offering the second vaccine.
That may change since President Joe Biden just announced that another 200 million vaccine doses will be made available within the next six months in addition to the 400 million on order from Pfizer and Moderna. Both vaccines require two injections, assuring that most of the population will be vaccinated. Delivery of both is expected by July.
Barbara Naclerio, health educator at East Shore Health District, said the key is patience. She explained that the backup is due to those 75 and older who are getting the second dose of the vaccine, and the dicey weather. She said, “Every week, half of clinics are filling with those receiving second dose, while the other half are receiving the first dose.” She added that there was a similar lag when 75-plus group first became eligible.
As with previous sign-ups, those eligible now must register through the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) website. Participants will receive information via email to complete the registration process and find a location to schedule an appointment. The VAMS system shows locations and time slots across the state based on your zip code and distance selected.
Alternately, CVS [cvs.com] or Walgreens Pharmacies [walgreens.com] are offering the vaccine in a limited number of locations with Guilford and Waterford being the closest. Register online to get on their lists. Keep in mind that appointments are currently in short supply.
Residents in the Essex area can obtain vaccines when available through the Nutmeg Pharmacy locations in Higganum, Centerbrook, Taftville, and Moodus on a first-come, first-served basis. Details must be registered on their wait list. [https://bit.ly/2ZbIJc7]
According to Lisa Fasulo, Essex health director and emergency management director, the Old Saybrook mass vaccination clinic gets approximately 500 doses per week, so residents should keep checking their appointment slots in VAMS.
Various healthcare systems, such as Yale-New Haven Health, Middlesex Health, UConn Health, Hartford Healthcare, Veteran Affairs, are also offering vaccinations. Again, registration is required. Naclerio said that by uploading information in bulk, they’ve been an important hub in helping people access locations to receive the vaccine.
Senior centers in Branford, Guilford, and North Branford have also been offering the vaccine; Naclerio says they offer wait lists at the end of scheduled appointments and people can call to receive a vaccine that way.
Noting that East Haven had one of the lowest numbers of people accessing shots, Naclerio said they redoubled their efforts through churches and senior housing.
Naclerio stressed the importance of reaching homebound residents through agencies such as the VNA, Meals on Wheels, and other home health care agencies. She sees the process moving from small local clinics to big box stores, such as Walmart and Target.
Adding to the somewhat complicated mix is the need to get teachers vaccinated in order to safely open schools for in-person learning.
And finally, in the rush to vaccinate the population, Naclerio said people can’t forget the need for testing. “People still need that,” she said.
For more information, call the Vaccine Appointment Assistance Line (VAAL) at 877-918-2224 or 211-United Way or go to dphsubmissions.ct.gov/OnlineVaccine to enroll through VAMS.