The Town of West Hartford launched two new programs this week to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to residents.
By Ronni Newton
Ten West Hartford residents who had previously been unable to make it to a clinic received their potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday as the town launched its “At-Risk Community Health” program (ARCH).
ARCH is a partnership between the West Hartford Fire Department and the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, and will help ensure that all who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to receive one, even if they’re homebound and unable to travel to a vaccination clinic.
Assistant Fire Chief Hugh O’Callaghan said the program was already running smoothly on its first day, with firefighter/paramedic Andrew Slicer and public health nurse Melissa Marquis vaccinating the residents at their homes.
“As soon as the message went out people signed up,” West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renée McCue said. She said that a total of 20 people have been vetted already by the Health District, including the 10 who were vaccinated Wednesday.
Beginning Thursday, Feb. 11, the state will officially add residents who are ages 65-74 to Phase 1B of the vaccination program, and homebound residents who are in that age group, along with those who are 75 and older, will also be able to apply to register to receive a vaccination through the ARCH program.
The form for online registration can be found here. Those who do not have access to the online form can contact the Health District at 860-561-7900.
According to the town, “ARCH is reserved for residents who meet the state 1B criteria and have unusual or exceptional circumstances that limit their access to the vaccine due to the logistics of transportation and administration at the clinic sites.”
The Health District uses the Moderna vaccine, which has a shelf life of 6 hours, and the clock starts ticking when it’s drawn.
The individuals who are to be vaccinated are vetted by the Health District, and their contact information is given to the fire department which will set the schedule so it will be completed most expediently, within the timeframe that the vaccine remains fresh.
The town also launched its Vaccine Information Line this week, to provide assistance to West Hartford residents who may have questions about obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine.
It was a service the town determined was necessary after receiving many questions about the vaccination process, which as of Feb. 11 is available to residents ages 65 and older in Phase 1B, as well as frontline health care workers and medical first responders who qualified in Phase 1A.
West Hartford’s Information Line can be reached at 860-561-6998.
The Information Line went live on Monday, Feb. 8, and Town Manager Matt Hart said in his report to the Town Council Tuesday night that 41 calls were received the first day. Questions ranged from where to register for and receive the vaccine, inquiries about the ARCH service, which underlying conditions would be taken into account for receiving the vaccine when someone is not age eligible, residency requirements, and other topics.
The Information Line is operated by West Hartford Public Library staff, in partnership with West Hartford Social Services, the West Hartford Senior Centers and the West Hartford/Bloomfield Health District, and will be open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and will remain open as long as needed.
The Information Line is being staffed by reference librarians, who have been provided with the most up-to-date and accurate information about how those eligible can register, and will be equipped to answer other questions about the process including updates as new vaccines and service providers become available.
Questions that are not completed are left in a call log for staff in other departments to follow up, with the goal of responding within 24 hours.
The Information Line is intended to provide guidance, and staff are not able to actually register residents for a vaccine.
Electric Health Record System
Aimee Krauss, director of the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, said that she has now signed a contract to procure an electronic health record system that will serve as an alternative to VAMS, the national Vaccine Administration Management System that the state has been using.
VAMS requires each individual to have their unique email address, which has created difficulty for some seniors who may not use email, or may share an email address with a spouse. In addition to actually administering vaccinations, Krauss and other Health District staff have had the time-consuming task of assisting with the creation of email accounts before they can vaccinate someone.
The Health District’s new system, which will be up and running shortly, will allow for communication via phone, text, or email.
Town-specific vaccination data will be updated by the state every Thursday afternoon.
As of Feb. 3, the most recent report indicated that 13.8% of West Hartford residents had been vaccinated, and 46.7% of those ages 75 and older had received the vaccine.
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