Waterbury Hospital, borough close clinic

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Officials focus on outreach as vaccine demand declines

Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 EMT Kristen Trzaski administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Roshana Tilkuram, of Waterbury, at a clinic at the Parks and Recreation Department in Naugatuck on June 24, which was the last day of the clinic. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines declines in the state, Waterbury Hospital and Naugatuck officials have shut down a drive-thru vaccination clinic in the borough.

Officials on June 24 closed the clinic that had been operating at the Parks and Recreation Department on Rubber Avenue.

“The decision was made jointly with our partner, the borough of Naugatuck, to suspend operations at the site due to a dramatic drop in demand and the fact that those who still need the vaccine have more options,” said Lauresha Xhihani, director of communications and marketing for Waterbury Hospital.

Workers administered about 12,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots from Jan. 25 through June 24 at the clinic, Xhihani said. Workers went from administering 220 doses in a four-hour day to about two dozen per day, she said.

Waterbury Hospital closed a clinic it operated at Post University in Waterbury in late May and funneled all vaccination appointments to the Naugatuck site.

Deputy Fire Chief James Trzaski, who oversaw operations of the clinic, said workers were only administering second vaccine doses in the final weeks.

“I truly believe we’ve exhausted our cliental who are looking for a vaccination,” Trzaski said.

Trzaski said he was impressed with the resolve of workers at clinic, who provided vaccines despite challenges from weather and the number of people.

“They’re totally dedicated to the mission. Each and every one of them totally made a difference,” Trzaski said. “I’m truly going to miss working with them.”

As of last week, a little more than 2 million, or roughly 56.3% of the 3.6 million people in Connecticut, were fully vaccinated, meaning a person received a shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or a second shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

The positive test rate for coronavirus has steadily remained under 1% over recent weeks.

Health officials are focusing their outreach efforts on walk-in and pop-up clinics to reach those not yet vaccinated.

“These pop-ups are to get those vaccinated who are still not. It’s all about bringing the vaccinations to the people,” Chesprocott Health District Director of Health Maura Esposito said.

Chesprocott, which serves Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott, ran 49 clinics from Jan. 2 through June 6 and vaccinated over 11,700 people with help from Medical Reserve Corp members, Esposito said.

Esposito said Chesprocott is only holding pop-up clinics now.

Those who want a vaccine still have plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated.

Griffin Hospital is keeping its vaccination center at 727 Rubber Ave. open. Starting July 6, the center’s hours will change to 12 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays, said Christian Meagher, senior communications specialist for Griffin Health.

Meagher said the hospital is also continuing outreach efforts, including mobile vaccination teams that travel across the state daily to administer vaccines.

“Additionally, we have partnered with local school districts and colleges to administer the vaccine for staff and students who are eligible, and have set up vaccination clinics at community celebrations where large numbers of individuals are expected to gather,” he said.

Waterbury Hospital has opened a walk-in clinic in a former Payless Shoe Store at 910 Wolcott St., Waterbury. The clinic is open daily.

Officials advised people who haven’t been vaccinated and want a vaccine to contact their local pharmacy or look for pop-up or walk-up clinics.