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West Hartford Launches COVID Vaccine Info Line, Outreach for Homebound Residents

West Hartford Fire Department intercept vehicle. Courtesy photo

West Hartford will staff an Information Line for residents with questions about COVID-19 vaccination, and on Feb. 10 will begin mobile vaccinations for eligible residents who homebound.

Moderna vaccine vial. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford is launching two new programs in order to ensure that residents will be able to have their questions answered about the COVID-19 vaccination process, and for those who are unable to get to a vaccination clinic, the town is launching ARCH, which will bring the vaccines to them.

Information Line

The Information Line will be available beginning Monday, Feb. 8, and is something the town determined to be an important need after receiving many questions about the vaccination process, which is currently available to residents ages 75 and older in Phase 1B, as well as frontline health care workers and medical first responders who qualified in Phase 1A.

The Information Line will be operated by West Hartford Public Library staff, and will be open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Those staffing the line will be 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.

The Information Line is intended to provide guidance, and staff are not able to actually register residents for a vaccine.

Staff will track the types of questions asked so that gaps in information or service can be tracked by the town.

West Hartford’s Information Line can be reached at 860-561-6998.

“The state vaccine registration phone line and website present challenges for some of our older residents. This Information Line will serve as a much-needed source of information on how to register and where to go,” said Mayor Shari Cantor.

ARCH

West Hartford is also launching its “At-Risk Community Health” program – ARCH – on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.

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.

Some individuals who are over 75 and have mobility issues that make them homebound have already been identified and are scheduled for the service.

“So far our day is full with at least 10 next Wednesday,” Assistant Fire Chief Hugh O’Callaghan told We-Ha.com.

Aimee Krauss, director of the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, said in anticipation of this program coming online, the Health District had reached out to houses of worship for assistance identifying individuals who might be eligible.

ARCH will provide the service to West Hartford residents every Wednesday, as long as the need exists.

The state recently approved paramedics being able to do mobile vaccinations – a “treat and release” function that they had not been previously authorized to perform, O’Callaghan said. When vaccines are administered by paramedics outside of a clinic setting, they must still be accompanied by a nurse, APRN, or a doctor.

Melissa Marquis, a nurse with the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, will be accompany the firefighter paramedic. Ten fire department employees have already gone through the training, and initially there will be 16 who will be able to work on the ARCH program.

O’Callaghan said that each Wednesday that there are vaccines to be administered, a firefighter/paramedic will ready the equipment and will contact the public health nurse who will draw the vaccine so it will be ready. The paramedic then pick up the public health nurse and make the rounds.

The West Hartford Fire Department’s paramedic intercept vehicle will be utilized for the service.

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 will be provided by the Health District, and their contact information will be 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 paramedic and nurse will take turns giving the shots and completing the necessary paperwork. They will remain with the individual who received the vaccine for 15-30 minutes to ensure there are no adverse reactions.

Each Moderna vaccine vial contains 10 doses. O’Callaghan said that if anything is left over, the Health District has a list of individuals who can be filled in on the schedule so that no doses are wasted.

The town has developed an online registration form for those who would like to receive a vaccine through the ARCH program. That form 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 (age 75 or older) 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 will make the assessment to determine if someone is eligible for ARCH. The program will be expanded as categories of those eligible for COVID-19 vaccination also expands.

“I’m very excited,” O’Callaghan said about the launch of ARCH. “I’m very excited to be part of the solution, to see this from the beginning to hopefully the end.”

Krauss is also excited about the launch. “We’re excited about the opportunity and ability to bring this to the people of West Hartford,” she said, and about the chance to partner with the Fire Department.

“We don’t want any obstacles to stand in the way of any of our residents receiving this vitally important, life-saving vaccine,” Cantor said. “Please reach out to our Information Line or ARCH if you need help.”

O’Callaghan said it was not quite a year ago that he was trying to determine how the fire department was going to operate amid the pandemic, wondering how they could find enough PPE, and how this would affect the community.

He said he is grateful to have been able to partner with those outside the department – like Marquis and Krauss on a variety of efforts – including handing out masks in the Center in the summer and fall. He said while the numbers can’t be quantified, he’s certain the efforts helped slow the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to these two new programs, the town is also conducting outreach efforts to seniors who are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Krauss has also created a step-by-step guide to using VAMS, the Vaccine Administration Management System, and is planning to implement its own electronic health record program, which will serve as an alternative to VAMS.

ARCH is only for West Hartford resident at this point, Krauss said, but she hopes to implement a similar program for Bloomfield residents utilizing a Bloomfield EMT who has undergone training.

Krauss said that she has ordered 500 vaccine doses which she expects to receive next week, and will be holding clinics at the senior center in Bishops Corner and at Town Hall for those who have qualified and signed up.

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