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Drive-thru shots begin at state’s largest clinic of its kind

Originally posted on Journal Inquirer

Many local residents said Monday they were relieved and elated to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at the state’s largest vaccination drive-thru clinic, which distributed 500 Pfizer vaccines Monday to health care providers, medical first responders, and those 75 and older.

Eventually, health officials hope to distribute 7,000 to 10,000 vaccines a week at the clinic at the former Pratt & Whitney runway.

“We need to keep our eye on getting the vaccines distributed to as large as a population as possible,” said Mayor Marcia Leclerc.

The clinic is administering vaccines only by appointment to health care workers and first responders under Phase 1A, based on the recommendations from the governor’s Vaccine Advisory Group.

People 75 and older are the first group in Phase 1B to be eligible for the vaccine.

Leslie Gianelli, vice president of communications for Community Health Center, said the clinic’s first day was a success.

“Everyone who had an appointment showed up, and it was seamless,” she said.

The town worked with Community Health Center, the state Department of Public Health, Pratt & Whitney, and the National Guard to open the clinic near Rentschler Field.

The runway was converted into a 10-lane drive-thru clinic with at least 20 Community Health Center staff there to give the vaccination to people as they sat in their vehicles.

After receiving the shot, people would pull forward and be directed to the proper lane based on whether they had any allergies. People without allergies were required to wait 15 minutes before leaving, while those with allergies had to wait 30 minutes.

Jack Hilditch, 76, said the process went smoothly.

He said he was scheduled to get a vaccine at 10:20 a.m. but already received it by 10:19.

He showed the vaccination card he received, saying it brought back memories of his time serving in the Marines.

He reported feeling well as he waited patiently for 30 minutes until he could leave because he has a drug allergy.

“I have no pain in my arm where the injection was given,” he said.

Mark Masselli, CEO of Community Health Center, said the clinic has a full-time physician on staff in the case of any emergencies.

Irene Bedard, 93, an East Hartford resident, also received the vaccine.

She reported no problems as she sat in the back seat of her daughter’s vehicle after receiving the shot. Bedard also said the injection did not hurt and that she was grateful.

Joan Rogers, Bedard’s daughter, said she will feel even better once her mother receives the second dose of the vaccine. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

Phil Mitchell, a Glastonbury resident, did not flinch when he received his vaccine on Monday, adding that like others he was glad to receive it. He said the only obstacle to getting the vaccine was the directions to the site, which he said were a little confusing.

The clinic will be open until Friday; beginning next week it will operate seven days a week.

Masselli said he was most concerned about operating in inclement weather. If a snowstorm were to occur, he said the cones would be removed and the Department of Transportation would plow the area before the clinic could reopen.

Asked if there is enough vaccine supply, Masselli said the whole country is worried about supply.

“I think the governor is very committed to working with the Biden administration in doing everything we can to get as many vaccines our way,” he said.

Leclerc said the state was evaluating the Vaccine Administration Management System, the system that supports planning and the implementation of vaccination clinics, to see if it is adequate and if there are modifications that need to be made.

Masselli said that this is the first of several clinics that will be opened in the state.

Those eligible to receive a vaccine can make an appointment through the state’s website here.

People without internet access may make an appointment by calling 877-918-2224.

COVID vaccine available by appointment only. Click for more information. Interested in becoming a volunteer vaccinator? Click here.