By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
Local first responders, nursing home residents and staff getting inoculated
The vaccination of nursing home residents and staff as well as first responders in the battle against COVID-19 is underway.
Glendale Center and Beacon Brook Health Center, both in Naugatuck, have partnered with CVS to administer the approved Pfizer vaccines to their staff and residents. The nursing homes began to vaccinate their residents and staff in late December.
Glendale Center completed its first vaccination clinic on Dec. 27, according to Glendale Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Feifer.
“Vaccination is the critical third leg of the stool, along with personal protective equipment and testing, in stemming COVID-19 spread in nursing homes and protecting residents and health care workers,” Feifer said. “This is unquestionably the biggest vaccination effort ever undertaken and will help prevent further tragedies, especially in this vulnerable population.”
Beacon Brook Health Center held its first inoculation clinic on Dec. 28, according to Tim Brown, a spokesman for Athena Health Care Systems, which owns Beacon Brook.
The officials did not provide information on the number of residents and staff that have received the vaccine so far.
Feifer said it’s too early to provide vaccine acceptance rates as officials expect more residents and staff to choose to get vaccinated at a second clinic scheduled for Jan. 17.
CVS technicians administered vaccines bedside for residents and in two common areas for employees, according to Feifer. He said technicians will administer the second vaccine for people who received the first dose and will vaccinate anyone who wants one and wasn’t included in the first round. Technicians will return three weeks after the second round to administer the final shots, he said.
Brown said Beacon Brook residents and employees were vaccinated in lounges across different areas in the building. Residents were also vaccinated at bedside, he said. Residents and staff who were vaccinated in the first round are expected to receive their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 18, he said.
There are more than 20,000 nursing home residents and more than 32,000 staff members in the state.
Through Dec. 29, there were 12,473 cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residents and 3,532 coronavirus-linked deaths, according to state statistics.
There have been 3,350 cases and three deaths among nursing home staff since June 17, according to state numbers.
Glendale Center has 120 beds and more than 125 employees. Beacon Brook has 126 beds and 177 employees.
Through Dec. 29, there had been 127 cases among nursing home residents at Beacon Brook and 55 at Glendale Center, according to state statistics. Through Dec. 29, there were 31 coronavirus-associated deaths of residents at Beacon Brook and seven at Glendale Center.
Since June 17, there have been 26 cases among staff at Beacon Brook and three at Glendale, according to state figures. No coronavirus-associated deaths were reported among staff at the two nursing homes.
People eligible to receive vaccines under the state’s Phase 1a distribution plan includes health care personnel, long-term care facility residents and first responders.
Locally, first responders are starting to get vaccinated.
Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, who is also the day commander for the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department, said he received the first dosage of the vaccine at Chesprocott Health District’s first vaccination clinic on Jan. 2.
The health district, which serves Prospect, Cheshire and Wolcott, began administering the approved Moderna vaccine to front-line workers. The district held its second clinic Jan. 6.
Several Prospect police officers and firefighters also received the vaccine, said Chatfield, who was infected with COVID-19 in November.
“I hoping that by summer that if we can get everybody vaccinated, maybe the town will get back to normal,” Chatfield said.
Chesprocott Director of Health Maura Esposito did not return a message seeking comment.
About 25 Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 members, who are both firefighters and EMS, in Beacon Falls have received the first or second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, said Jeremy Rodorigo, public information officer for Beacon Hose. He said they received vaccines through Waterbury Hospital.
“The vaccines have only gone out to Beacon Hose members who are EMS responders,” Rodorigo said.
Three eligible members declined to take it, Rodorigo said.
First responders in Naugatuck have also started to get vaccinated through programs run by Saint Mary’s Hospital and Waterbury Hospital, officials said.
Naugatuck Fire Chief Paul Russell said about half the borough’s firefighters have received a vaccine. Borough firefighters also respond to medical emergencies.
There are 36 firefighters in the department and 41 total members, including fire officials, according to Russell. Russell said he hadn’t received the vaccine as of last week, but plans to at a later date.
Naugatuck Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said he and Police Chief Steven Hunt have received the vaccine. He said about 50% of officers have expressed a willingness to get the vaccine. There are 59 officers at the department.
McAllister said some officers have received their first dose or are scheduled for it. He did not have the number of officers who have been vaccinated.
Borough employees aren’t mandated to get vaccinated. Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the borough may offer incentives, such as a vacation day, for employees to get vaccinated but that has not been finalized.
As Phase 1a rolls on, an advisory panel to Gov. Ned Lamont last week was still working out its final recommendations for Phase 1b and 1c vaccine distribution.
Hess said borough officials talk with the Naugatuck Valley Health District as well as state and federal officials every day with how to move forward with the vaccine dissemination, but have no final answers yet.
“We are anxiously waiting further guidance and direction on the implementation of Phase 1b and we are very eager to begin implementing Phase 1b,” Hess said.
Jessica Kristy, director of health for the Naugatuck Valley Health District, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The Republican-American contributed to this report.