Other grassroots effortsGov. Ned Lamont has prioritized the vaccinations of 75-and-older residents, but as state officials, hospitals and local health districts have rolled out that plan, they have found it is not going to be easy to reach this population. Many don’t have computers, cell phones or e-mail addresses, while others have transportation issues. While no other towns have yet turned to Uber, officials across the state are trying to be creative — from the Senior Center director in Norwich, who keeps a list of names of seniors in his back pocket in case an opening occurs at a clinic, to an initiative in West Hartford and Bloomfield to have paramedics give homebound elderly people vaccines in their own living rooms. “I know a number of our municipal partners are also taking the initiative to look at providing transportation for people who don’t have it, or if … they’re living alone or they’re not in a congregate facility where the vaccines may be brought to them,” the state’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said during a recent press conference. Geballe said that state officials have heard of “a lot of grassroots work going on.” “I’ve heard of churches who are adopting members of their community and helping ensure that they’re getting enrolled and they are aware of what’s available and giving them rides, so it’s a tremendous community effort across the state that’s going on right now.”
Filling open slots
In the Norwich area, Uncas Health District Director Patrick McCormack has been relying on Rose City Senior Center Director Michael Wolek to help him fill sudden openings at clinics.“Mike keeps a file on every person he’s helped sign up for a vaccine that includes everything from their e-mail address to their passwords to VAMS [the federal Vaccine Administration Reporting system run by the Centers for Disease Control] because many elderly people who aren’t used to the technology don’t remember their passwords,” McCormack said. At a clinic last week, McCormack said, they had four extra doses of vaccine, and “Mike pulled out his list of names and found four people who were scheduled for a different clinic and brought them in.” Wolek said he has helped about 50 seniors sign up for their vaccinations so far. The Rose City Senior Center is an active facility where 100-150 people a day visited before the pandemic. Knowing the audience, Wolek realized pretty quickly that it was going to be frustrating for many of them to schedule appointments. “Not a lot of 85-year-olds have e-mail addresses,” Wolek said. “Many of them just got frustrated with the process and tried the phone system, and that wasn’t working for them either.” Wolek said he has helped many of them navigate the VAMS system and get appointments. “My biggest concern is people who aren’t going to get vaccinated because they are housebound,” Wolek said. Door-to-door vaccines
West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Director Aimee Krause, along with West Hartford Fire Chief Gregory Priest, have a plan to reach the housebound seniors in her communities: administering vaccines door-to-door.They have trained 11 paramedics in West Hartford and Bloomfield to be certified vaccinators. They will go to people’s homes, accompanied by a registered nurse, and give them their shots there. Under DPH regulations, a nurse or doctor is required to be with a paramedic administering vaccines. Krause said the department is working with the social services departments in both towns to create lists of people who might need to be vaccinated at home. “It’s not going to happen quickly, but I hope to start scheduling them soon, depending on amount of vaccine that we get,” Krause said. She is already doing regular weekly clinics with 200 shots per clinic in West Hartford and Bloomfield. Krause said she doesn’t know yet how many people are in the position of needing home visits, but she said it’s likely more than people realize.