NEW BRITAIN – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy along with Mayor Erin Stewart paid a visit to the Hospital for Central Connecticut Tuesday morning to witness how its covid-19 vaccine distribution program operates.
“I’m glad that they’re busy and I’m glad that we are vaccinating as many first responders and frontline healthcare workers as possible,” Murphy said.
The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain has vaccinated over 15,000 employees and 5,000 first responders to date, performing 300 vaccinations a day for the region.
“Over 75% of our emergency medical personnel in the city of New Britain have been vaccinated,” Stewart said. “There are very few who have said no. We tried to spread it out a little bit so we have our fire department registered at the Community Health Center so they’re (HOCC) not so booked, but the hospital is making great accommodations for us scheduling the rest here. We’re almost there.”
Hartford HealthCare has two vaccine clinics, one at the New Britain hospital and one at MidState Medical Center.
“We’ve been open six days a week, all different hours,” said Christine Scully, central region director of integration. “Today we have about 165 staff members that will be vaccinated in this clinic for both Moderna and Pfizer. So we have both first dose and second dose.”
HOCC did share that some employees are a little cautious about the vaccine and are waiting to see what happens to others who are receiving it.
“We try to answer questions and go down to the individual departments and meet with people about their concerns in private and tell them this is a safe vaccine. It’s come out very fast, but there are reasons why and they’re good reasons,” said Dr. Virginia Bieluch, chief of infectious diseases, HOCC. “A lot of one-on-ones people stop me in the hall, come down to my office and express their concerns and we’re really open to that.”
Murphy did share the state has been having some trouble with predictability of delivery from week to week and the delivery for this week in the state was much lower.
“That’s a concern so I want us to see how that’s trickling down site to site. It has caused other places to have to dramatically curtail appointments,” Murphy said.
In December, Congress passed a Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement, which includes key funding priorities and legislation Murphy authored to help Connecticut, such as funding directly to states for covid-19 vaccine distribution, testing, contact tracing and other mitigation efforts.
“We need to be getting ready for a pivot very soon; we’re going to be going from vaccinating healthcare workers and first responders to vaccinating members of the public,” Murphy said. “We need to be able to scale up quickly and I’m glad to have a chance to get to understand how we can be helpful in Washington to make sure that they have the resources here in New Britain to be able to expand their reach. This is not a cheap endeavor to stand up a mass vaccination program, and so that $8 million the Congress has appropriated for vaccine distribution, some of it is going to come right here, some of it is going to come to New Britain to help the mayor and help the hospital be able to expand the outreach.”
When asked about the next step, the mass vaccination portion pertaining to the elderly population, Stewart said it was “nerve wracking.”
“In addition to the hospital the city also has their other public clinics in town, like Community Health Center and the New Britain Health Department Clinic, and the city has only been getting 100 doses a week and just started last week,” Stewart said. “The Hospital for Special Care opened a public clinic with a small allotment as well. There are going to be a lot more people eligible and we hope that they register and feel comfortable coming to the hospital to get that vaccine because we will be able to do that and do it effectively, but you have to go through that system.”
Murphy said the vaccine is safe and effective.
“I’ve taken it, the leadership of the hospital has taken it; anyone who is eligible for this vaccine should get it and if you have questions there are lots of people here at the hospital who can answer those questions” Murphy said. “It’s natural to have questions, right? This vaccine was approved very quickly, but it has been proven to be both completely safe and remarkably effective. Make sure when your turn is up to get yourself vaccinated; it’s the right thing to do for you and your family.”