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COVID-19 VACCINE

On January 14 the State of Connecticut announced that residents aged 75 and over could schedule an appointment to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at any open clinic in Connecticut.  Town leaders and volunteers in New Fairfield and Sherman have been working together for months to prepare to vaccinate its residents, including setting up vaccination clinics for both towns. In New Fairfield, the Office of the First Selectman, the Public Health Department and the Senior Citizen Center continue to assist eligible residents with scheduling their first vaccination appointments.

Appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations must be set up through the online Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).  This system is the gateway to make appointments for vaccinations at any clinic, collect relevant health information of those receiving the vaccine, manage vaccine inventories and share information about the vaccine itself. All vaccinations will be done only by appointment using VAMS, no walk-ins are allowed. Both towns realized that not every senior citizen is computer savvy or has access to a computer or an email address. To assist these residents, town leaders, public health staff, staff from the Senior Citizen Center and volunteers worked with those who needed help to establish emails where needed and help them sign up in VAMS for their vaccination appointments.

“As a result of this effort, some residents aged 75 and over were able to get appointments for their first Covid-19 vaccine at nearby clinics,” said First Selectman Pat Del Monaco.  This group was able to schedule appointments at public health clinics in Danbury, at New Milford and Danbury hospitals and at other local clinics.  Del Monaco noted that appointments may be a few weeks out due to vaccine availability.  If you are eligible and have not scheduled an appointment, you may use this website to make an appointment at any listed clinic:  https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/covid-19%20vaccinations.  If you have questions, you may contact the Senior Center at 203-312-5672 or the State hotline at 877-918-2224 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

So far in Connecticut only those aged 75 and over are eligible to register for vaccine appointments in the early stages of Phase 1b (Phase 1a included healthcare workers, firefighters, police, EMTs, paramedics and those senior citizens in long-term care facilities).  Phase 1b will eventually be expanded to those aged 65-74, individuals between the ages of 16-64 with comorbidities, additional frontline essential workers (including teachers/school staff, food service and grocery workers, U.S. postal workers) and individuals and staff in congregate settings (visit ct.gov/covidvaccine/access for information on vaccine eligibility and timeframes).  After these groups have been vaccinated, the next phase includes the general public and is anticipated to begin this summer. It is expected that the general public will also have access to the vaccine at clinics, pharmacies, doctors’ offices and more.

New Fairfield and Sherman have been working for months to prepare for vaccination clinics for its residents.  The first clinic is expected to be held at the New Fairfield Senior Center beginning February 2 for those in the first wave of Phase 1b.  As the State authorizes additional categories of people eligible for vaccines, the towns will announce that expansion and how to sign up.

“Under the State process, the towns will order vaccines on Wednesdays and we receive word from the State on Fridays as to how many doses we will receive.  We will then schedule clinics accordingly,” said Tim Simpkins, Director of Public Health for New Fairfield and Sherman.  Beginning on February 2, there will be four clinics planned each week, to be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-7:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Clinic scheduling will be totally dependent on vaccine availability. We will announce the clinics after we have scheduled them,” Simpkins said.

In the meantime, Simpkins has been busy procuring the volunteers and supplies needed to administer these vaccinations, including PPE equipment, needles and the freezer to store the vaccine.  Initially, the town clinics will administer the Moderna vaccine, and there will be no charge for this service. No one will contact you asking you for your social security number, banking information or any other personal information; the only way to register is through VAMS. For more information on the vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/coronovirus/2019-ncov/vaccines. There will also be personnel at the clinics to assist those who may have a reaction to the vaccine.

Both towns will continue to communicate all vaccination clinic details, and possible testing dates, through AlertNow for New Fairfield residents (sign up at www.newfairfield.org), the New Fairfield and Sherman town websites, Nixle for Sherman residents (sign up at www.townofshermanct.org), town Facebook pages and the Town Tribune.

Patience is necessary during this entire process. Governor Ned Lamont noted that there are 1.3 million people eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b, but the State is only receiving 46,000 first doses per week.

By J. U. Azzi