With more people to help, vaccinations soaring in Trumbull

TRUMBULL — EMTs, podiatrists, even dental hygienists and veterinarians have answered the call to help Trumbull and the surrounding region fight COVID-19 through vaccination.

The additional certified vaccinators have helped accelerate the pace of vaccinations in town, according to Health Director Lucienne Bango.

EMS Chief Leigh Goodman said she has overseen the certification of 35 people to administer vaccine injections in the past two weeks, with additional vaccinator clinics scheduled Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 18.

“These are people who already administer medications, but don’t have vaccine administration certification because it’s not within the scope of their practice,” Goodman said. “That’s why the state put the training in place to facilitate getting more people certified to give vaccines.”

The Health Department was vaccinating about 100 people each week at its weekly clinic at the Senior Center earlier this month. That was when Bango told Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz that manpower was one of the factors limiting vaccine delivery. The following week, that number doubled to about 200 as the first vaccinator volunteers became available. And the pace has kept increasing. Last week, 800 people received a vaccine injection at a pair of clinics held at Trumbull High School on Wednesday and Saturday.

And the vaccination rate could increase even more, Bango said.

“This week we’re ordering 1,000,” she said. The department is scheduled to administer vaccines at two clinics this week, on Jan. 26 and Jan. 28.

The certification process is relatively straightforward, Goodman said. Applicants must register online and complete a virtual training class. This takes about an hour and includes an online exam. With a certificate of completion in-hand, the potential vaccinators then attend an in-person practice session where they demonstrate their techniques under the watchful eyes of Goodman and a small team of evaluators from UConn, she said.

“The in-person evaluation covers things like proper use of personal protective equipment, and recognizing the signs of a reaction to the vaccine,” she said. “They also have to demonstrate knowledge of the appropriate landmarks (orienting them to the precise injection point).”

In addition, Goodman said, there are slightly different techniques to administer vaccine depending on the recipient.

“If you give an injection into the shoulder of a frail nursing home resident the same way you do a younger person with big arms, you can almost hit the bone,” she said. “And then they have to be able to draw out a proper dose of medication, which is a skill in itself.”

The physical demonstration part of the certification takes about an hour, meaning someone who had the prerequisite experience could complete the online and physical portions in an afternoon and would be ready to vaccinate.

Among the first to complete the process were Trumbull EMTs, Goodman said.

“I told the Health Department, the minute we can we’ll send over a team to help,” Goodman said.

The number of other volunteers in town meant the EMS crews have not been needed to help vaccinate, but they have pitched in in other areas like logistics and registration. And they remain on-call if needed.

“If a vaccinator can’t make it to a clinic, my team can step right in and help,” she said.

Any assistance is invaluable, Bango said.

“The staff has been working 17-hour days, working Saturdays running clinics, and Sundays making preparations,” she said. “They’ve been going all out.”