Vaccination clinic opens in borough


By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Getting enough doses proves to be a challenge in effort to inoculate residents

Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 EMT Gillian Hotchkiss gives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Florence Rouff, 80, of Naugatuck, during a drive-thru vaccination clinic Jan. 25 behind the Parks and Recreation building in Naugatuck. -ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — A drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic is up and running in the borough as officials continue efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Naugatuck and Waterbury Hospital partnered to open the vaccination clinic in the parking lot of the Parks and Recreation building, the former armory, on Rubber Avenue next to Naugatuck High School. Naugatuck firefighters and EMTs from Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 in Beacon Falls are working to administer vaccines and run the clinic.

The clinic opened Jan. 25. As of Jan. 28, over 200 vaccine doses had been administered, said Naugatuck Deputy Fire Chief James Trzaski, who’s overseeing the clinic’s operations.

“I’m very impressed and not surprised by the collaborative efforts by departments, including fire, police and public works,” Trzaski said.

The clinic is set to operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Only eligible people under the state’s vaccination plan are able to receive a vaccine. People must be registered for appointments through the state’s online Vaccine Administration Management System to get a vaccine at the clinic.

The clinic hasn’t been without any hiccups.

Trzaski said the challenge has been getting enough doses of vaccine.

The clinic was canceled Jan. 26, Jan. 29, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 due to a shortage of vaccines distributed to Waterbury Hospital, officials announced. Officials plan to honor all appointments that were canceled.

“Sometimes we don’t get as many vaccines as we reserve,” Trzaski said. “That’s why we have to make the painful decision to cancel vaccinations.”

A Naugatuck resident who was registered for a vaccine on the first day of clinic was turned away because she was told there weren’t enough vaccines on hand.

Hazel Danby said her 91-year-old sister was scheduled for a vaccine at 11 a.m. Jan. 25. She said when they drove into the high school entrance they were turned away because they were told there weren’t enough vaccines.

“They said people were canceled. They had no vaccines,” Danby said.

Waterbury Hospital Director of Communications Lauresha Xhihani said the hospital was going to try to work to get her an appointment for the vaccine.

“I don’t know what happened in this specific case,” Xhihani said.

Hospital officials planned for up to 100 people to get the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 25 but honored 62 appointments, Xhihani said.

“Sixty-two people who were registered got their vaccine,” Xhihani said. “We took everyone who had appointment with VAMS.”

Waterbury Hospital Director of Business Development Jeremy Rodorigo, who is also the public information officer for Beacon Hose, said the state didn’t provide as many vaccines as they had expected.

“The allotment of vaccines was pulled back,” Rodorigo said.

The governor’s office was unaware of any shortage of vaccines for the clinic, said Josh Geballe, chief operating officer of the Lamont administration. He speculated that perhaps there may have been a shipping issue, or some vaccine vials were damaged or spoiled.

“It is the first I’m hearing about it, but we would certainly encourage the provider to work with those people who were not able to be accommodated to book them in as quickly as possible,” said Geballe, who is assisting in overseeing the ordering and distribution of vaccines.

Danby said her sister’s daughter-in-law registered her online through VAMS, around the week of Jan. 20 and received a confirmation email. She said they didn’t receive a cancellation notice beforehand or a rescheduled appointment when they were turned away.

“I was just very, very angry,” said Danby, who felt the situation wasn’t handled very well.

There have been issues across the state as officials undertake a massive effort to get residents vaccinated.

In some cases, teachers were able to sign up for a vaccine appointment before they were actually eligible because of confusion over the state’s plan.

The state has also dealt with complaints about difficulties in scheduling appointments for vaccine shots. There have been widespread complaints from senior citizens and advocates about long wait times for the appointment line and long response times for the automated call-back system.

Appointments are being scheduled through health care providers, a state web portal, or a dedicated telephone line. State officials increased staffing for the 211 call center at the United Way that is booking appointments. The number of the COVID Vaccine Appointment Assistance Line is 877-918-2224.

State officials have urged patience, stating that the pace of vaccination administration will depend on the supply of vaccine from the federal government. The state is receiving 46,900 doses a week.

The Republican-American contributed to this report.