Initial Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Arrive, West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Preparing for Clinics

Public health nurse Helen Drohan at the West Hartford Bloomfield Health District, holds up a box of Moderna vaccine vials. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District has received its first shipment of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, and will begin the process of administering initial doses to nurses and paramedics.

Public health nurses (from left)Carol Steinke, Helen Drohan, and Debbye Rosen at the West Hartford Bloomfield Health District gaze at the much-welcomed shipment of Moderna vaccine that arrived Dec. 23. Courtesy photo

By Ronni Newton

Christmas came a few days early to the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District.

“We applauded the UPS guy,” Health District Director Aimee Krauss said. A UPS driver pushed a hand truck stacked with boxes of the Moderna vaccine – a total of 500 doses – into the office late Wednesday morning.

Doses of the Moderna vaccine arrive via UPS at the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District. Courtesy photo

Krauss said the process of administering the vaccine was set to begin Thursday morning – Christmas Eve – for the nurses who in turn will be vaccinating others in West Hartford as well as Bloomfield.

The next group to receive vaccinations from the Health District will be frontline employees who administer medical care, who are included in Phase 1A. In West Hartford, that includes the firefighter paramedics who are employed by the West Hartford Fire Department. Krauss said she is hoping to do those vaccinations by the middle of this coming week.

“We want to make sure people who are providing critical care to the community are getting it,” Krauss said. She said she is personally ready to be vaccinated – but doesn’t want to use up a valuable dose that needs to go to someone who needs it even more than she does.

The Health District already had a vaccine refrigerator, and Krauss said they purchased a second unit for storage of the Moderna vaccine vials, which unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be kept at normal refrigerator temperature (between 36°F and 46°F according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), for up to 30 days.

Public health nurse Helen Drohan inspects the Moderna vaccine shipment that arrived Dec. 23 at the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District. Courtesy photo

Eventually, the Health District will be vaccinating others in the community as well, in the order of phases determined by the CDC and the state Department of Public Health.

The Health District is utilizing the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) to manage the process. Employers in essential industries are being invited to register their workforce in VAMS, and through that system vaccines will be scheduled based on phases and availability of vaccines.

Each vial of the Moderna vaccine holds 10 doses, and once the vials are punctured must be fully administered. That will also be a factor in determining the number of people who can be vaccinated at each clinic, Krauss said, because doses can’t be wasted.

“Our intent is to do a drive-through,” Krauss said, but that likely won’t happen until the vaccine is ready to be administered to a larger population, likely when Phase 1C begins. A drive-through flu vaccine clinic run by the Health District in the fall was intended, in part, to serve as a trial for the process of administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to preparing for administering COVID-19 vaccines, the Health District is continuing contact tracing, seven days a week. Although West Hartford Public Schools won’t be doing updates to its COVID dashboard until in-person classes resume on Jan. 4, the contact tracing continues, and the Health District responds to questions at all times of the day and night, Krauss said.

“They’ve worked endless hours with contact tracing, our flu clinics, and now soon-to-be COVID clinics,” Krauss said of the Health District staff. “I have a great team and am forever thankful for them all.”

Although the vaccination process has started, Krauss urged the community to continue vigilance and to “stay within your family unit” over the holidays.

According to the most recent data reported by the state, on Dec. 24, West Hartford has had 2,463 positive cases of COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, the number of daily cases has decreased somewhat, and rather than 40 or 50 new cases a day the total has been 15-20 cases a day. The state has reported 183 COVID-19 fatalities in West Hartford.

For the first time since the metric has been reported, West Hartford’s average new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 declined according to data reported Thursday. For the period covered by the report, Dec. 6 through Dec. 19, there were 39 new positive cases per 100,000, down from 47.7 for the period Nov.28 through Dec. 12. The percent positive rate for the same period declined from 6.9% to 6%. Those metrics are updated by the state every Thursday for the 14-day period ending the previous Saturday.

Public health nurses (from left)Carol Steinke, Helen Drohan, and Debbye Rosen at the West Hartford Bloomfield Health District gaze at the much-welcomed shipment of Moderna vaccine that arrived Dec. 23. Courtesy photo

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Moderna vaccine. Hartford HealthCare photo

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    • Hi Michael. The Health District has an office on Cottage Grove Road in Bloomfield, but although they have administered a few vaccines to nurses and first responders there, it’s a small office and that’s not where the clinics will be. There will likely be drive-throughs once a large group of the population is eligible. We are all anxious for a timeline and more details, but it hasn’t been rolled out yet. I will absolutely share as much information as possible as soon as it’s available to ensure that no one misses their opportunity to get a vaccine! ~Ronni

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