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West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Begins COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics

Lisa Nowak, a retired school nurse from West Hartford who will be working at vaccination clinics for the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, speaks to reporters after receiving her first dose of the Moderna vaccine Monday. In background are (from left) Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, Health Director Aimee Krauss, and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart, Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, Bloomfield Town Manager Phil Schenck, and Director of the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Aimee Krauss to hear about the launch of COVID-19 vaccination clinics for health care workers and first responders.

From left: Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, Health Director Aimee Krauss, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart speak about the COVID-19 vaccination process Monday. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The arrival last Wednesday of 500 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was cause for celebration at the West Hartford-Bloomfied Health District, and Health Director Aimee Krauss said the process of vaccinating front line health care workers and medical first responders who work for both Bloomfield and West Hartford began first thing the next day.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz visited the Health District Monday morning to hear firsthand from Krauss about the process, and was joined by West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart, Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, and Bloomfield Town Manager Phil Schenck.

“It is very important for the people of our state to get vaccinated,” Bysiewicz said. “This is our very top priority and the governor and I are trying to encourage all nursing home residents, all health care workers, front line workers, all the people in the top priority categories to get vaccinated.”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz speaks outside the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Monday morning, as the vaccination process gets underway. At left is Health Director Aimee Krauss and at right is West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have a 94% effectiveness rate, and limited side effects, she said, noting how important it is to educate everyone in the state about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lisa Nowak, a West Hartford resident and retired school nurse, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine Monday morning. She has been assisting the Health District at flu clinics for the past several years and will be administering the COVID-19 vaccine at future clinics.

“I feel that it’s a responsibility and something that I can do to help keep the health of our citizens and our friends and family. That’s why I got my vaccine today, so I can go and vaccinate you guys when they get all of this set up,” Nowak said.

“These are the boots on the ground,” DeBeatham-Brown said of those who work for the Health District. “This Health District is first in the fight … and stands ready in time to serve our entire community.”

Hart, who chairs the Health District, encouraged everyone to get vaccinated when possible. “We’re going to do our best to educate our community about the importance of getting vaccinated in a timely way as they become eligible.”

Krauss said the day after receiving the 500 doses, on Thursday, Dec. 24, “we began our vaccinations of our first responders.” The Health District will initially vaccinate those who are in Phase 1A, which includes nurses – public as well as non-public school nurses for both West Hartford and Bloomfield – firefighters who serve as emergency medical responders, and police officers who are also often the first to respond to medical calls.

The Health District is a licensed outpatient clinic, and the drive-through flu clinics it conducted in the fall were for preparation “in anticipation of planning a mass vaccination” for COVID-19, Krauss said. “We’re ready for it, we’ve been planning for it, and we’re excited to have it.”

The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District is one of 21 health districts in the state to receive initial doses of the vaccine.

West Hartford has approximately 220 public safety employees who will be eligible to receive the vaccine as part of Phase 1A, Hart said, and Schenck said Bloomfield has about 160 who are in front line public safety roles, including volunteer firefighters and ambulance corps members. The remainder of the initial supply of the Health District’s doses will also go to the school nurses.

Krauss said the Health District is on track to provide vaccines to members of Phase 1B when they become eligible, and she is excited to have the opportunity, as an outpatient clinic, to be part of the vaccination process.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” Krauss said. “We received our first case of COVID in March, we’ve been doing this seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day, so this is exciting news for us. We’ve continued contact tracing from the very beginning.” She said with each positive case, there can be 10 other people who might be associated with them.

DeBeatham-Brown said having the opportunity to provide some relief from the pandemic is exciting – to help residents, businesses and schools return to some type of new normal. “We are excited to see a light at the end of the tunnel, knowing it’s not a freight train.”

Bysiewicz said that working through the logistics of the vaccination process, and also prioritizing communities of color and the most vulnerable communities, are also critical for the administration.

Gov. Ned Lamont said during a press briefing Monday afternoon that 36,276 doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine have been administered thus far in the state.

West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart speaks at the Health District offices Monday morning as the vaccination process gets underway. In background are (from left) Health Director Aimee Krauss, Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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