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CT Leaders Hope Feds Up COVID-19 Vaccine Supply, Support as State Addresses Accessibility

Originally posted at NBC Connecticut

More than 1,500 people received a coronavirus vaccination in East Hartford Monday, but organizers said that number could increase substantially and safely if the state had a greater vaccine supply.

During a news conference at the mass vaccination site, state leaders said they’re holding out hope our new federal leaders can fast track this process and pay for it too.

Acting Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Deirdre Gifford says the state continues to receive about 46,000 doses per week, an allocation the CDC determines based on state population.

The state then distributes these to a variety of partners, including pharmacies helping with the process.

Organizers of the East Hartford site say they could easily dole out 5,000 doses safely in East Hartford every day, but with short supply 1,600 was Monday’s magic number.

 “If you look at the variants that are happening, the South African variant or the UK variant, there are real concerns if we don’t vaccinate because we’ll have more hosts where mutations can happen,” said Mark Masselli, founder of Community Health Center, which runs the East Hartford site.

 “We have 20 what we call vaccinators at any one point in time,” explained Senior Vice President and Clinical Director of Community Health Center Margaret Flinter.

She said this includes dentist who have been trained to help vaccinate.

“It’s really a full-court effort.”

Governor Lamont and Sen. Blumenthal both hope this new administration will help speed up the vaccination distribution process and help cover costs too.

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION COST

Community Health Center is currently footing the bill of the East Hartford site while working with state partners who all hope the feds will soon pass relief to cover the costs.

“This is above the pay grade of any individual state,” said Masselli.

As of deadline, Community Health Center was still adding up the numbers to give an estimate of the cost.

“We’ll figure out who is going to pay for it later, but we all have to stand up and get this done,” said Masselli.

Moving forward without all the answers so there’s one less worry for some Connecticut residents like Linda English, whose almost 93-year-old mother received the first dose of the vaccination.

“We’re very grateful that everybody’s here and doing their great job. It’s not just a shot, it’s a shot of hope,” said English of New London.

While waiting in line has its frustrations, folks inching towards the front at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site Monday were celebrating.

“We are so happy to be here I can’t tell you,” said Carolyn Baker of Plainville. 

After a stressful year, his first dose was a momentous moment for she and her husband soon to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

VACCINE ACCESS

Earlier this month we met Aida Nunez struggling to book her friend Ms. Johnson an appointment.

Ms. Johnson doesn’t have internet, or a computer and she pays for calls per minute, so Nunez didn’t want her waiting on hold.

We were able to help get Ms. Johnson get an appointment, having just learned of a new number created to help with the volume of calls and Monday she received her first dose.

“If it wasn’t for NBC 30 and you Caitlin, Ms. Johnson would not have gotten here,” said Nunez of Manchester.

Since then we’ve heard from others frustrated navigating the state’s vaccine appointment sign up system.

“We understand that there have been some challenges on the appointment making,” said Dr. Gifford, who said Monday she has a team working tirelessly on sign-up accessibility.

She said now those calling 211 to sign up for the vaccine can get help in another language and they’ll soon be able to book an appointment at locations other than just the mass vaccination site in East Hartford.

In addition, state health officials say they doubled the number of workers at the 211 call center Friday and they’re adding more workers this week. 

But no matter the modifications, the state asks for patience as they’re still working with a limited supply of shots.

“Keep trying to make that appointment and if you’re 75-and older we want to be vaccinated, we’ll get you a vaccine, it just may take some time,” said Gifford.

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