Government Health

Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccine Program Expands March 1 to Residents Ages 55 and Up

Colleen Teevan, systems manager for pharmacy clinical integration prepares a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at Hartford Hospital on Dec. 14, 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Vaccinations will also be available beginning March 1 to educators and others who work in the schools, as well as child care workers, of all ages, but they will receive separate instructions from their employers.

By Ronni Newton

Connecticut residents ages 55 and up will be able to register for COVID-19 vaccines as early as 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 1, and will be able to receive vaccines as early as March 1 as well, but the Department of Public Health is urging people to be patient as high volume demand is expected.

Roughly 500,000 residents will become eligible in the newest age-based phase, as will roughly 160,000 who work in the public and private schools, or are bus drivers or child care professionals.

There will be at least 130 vacation sites available throughout the state, but DPH said there will not be enough vaccine supply immediately for all who are newly eligible. Individuals who were previously eligible are still scheduling and receiving their vaccines as well.

Educators and child care professionals will be vaccinated at closed clinics hosted by local health districts, school districts, or their employers, and will receive specific instructions on how to schedule their vaccines, the DPH said.

West Hartford Public Schools will hold its first clinic on Friday, March 5.

“We anticipate that our online scheduling systems and the Vaccine Appointment Assist Line will be inundated tomorrow and for the next several days with people eager to make their vaccine appointments,” Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said in a statement on Sunday. “It’s a good problem to have, and we have increased our capacity to better handle the anticipated surge in volume, but it will still require people to be patient when signing up. To ease the burden on the online and phone systems, we urge residents 55 and older to consider waiting a few days before seeking an appointment if they are able to do so. New appointments will become available each week and this will help reduce stress on the system in the early days of the roll out. We are all in this together, and we need to work together in order to get out of this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

Vaccine appointments can be made through a variety of methods, including online and by phone. A complete list of the various scheduling options located closest to you can be found here on the state’s website.

The state also advised that the the phone capacity of the Vaccine Appointment Assist Line (877-918-2224), run by United Way of Connecticut/211, has been increased in response to the anticipated spike in demand for vaccine appointments, and 300 staff will be available to answer calls on Monday.

“The system is able to manage 1,050 calls at any one time. If that number is exceeded, callers should hear a fast busy signal to indicate that they will need to try again later. The Vaccine Appointment Assist Line staff anticipate being able to speak with 10,000 callers per day and once that capacity is reached, callers will hear a recorded message telling them to call back the next day,” DPH said in a news release.

The online VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) will currently allow those over age 55 to submit a form requesting access to the scheduling system. An email will follow with instructions to access the scheduling, but it could take several hours or as much as a day before those instructions are sent.

“The form to access the VAMS system is now available to all eligible residents here, but access to the scheduling system will not be granted until Monday and new registrations will not be processed continuously overnight,” the DPH release stated.

Many hospital systems, including Hartford Healthcare, Trinity Health of New England, and ECHN, as well as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, are also providing vaccinations to eligible populations. Those appointments must be made directly online through the organizations. Some have already opened up the registration portals, and others will be available beginning March 1.

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