Trumbull health director: Limited resources slowing COVID vaccine distribution

State Police Trooper Tamia Tucker prepares to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Trumbull Public Health Nurse Samantha Cousins Tuesday Jan. 5 at the Center at Priscilla Place. The Health Department will hold a special clinic for school staff later this week.

State Police Trooper Tamia Tucker prepares to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Trumbull Public Health Nurse Samantha Cousins Tuesday Jan. 5 at the Center at Priscilla Place. The Health Department will hold a special clinic for school staff later this week.

Donald Eng / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — Having vaccinated 200 people in a pair of clinics for essential workers included in Phase 1A, Trumbull Health Director Lucienne Bango said manpower is the single biggest factor limiting distribution in town.

Bango, in a meeting Tuesday between local health officials and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, expressed concern that the number of qualified vaccine administrators could limit the rate of distribution in town.

“We have one nurse on staff,” Bango told Bysiewicz. “I would love to do more clinics, but right now we’re relying on one staff member, and we still have to do all of the other Health Department functions.”

Bysiewicz visited the Center at Priscilla Place, where the department was conducting its second weekly clinic.

Inside the senior center area, there were three stations set up for Phase 1A workers — health care workers, emergency responders and nursing home residents — to receive their vaccination shots. But two of the three people administering the shots were volunteers from the community, Bango said. Also, the protocol is to allow 15 minutes between recipients at each station, which further slows the pace.

“We can do a lot with what we have, but we could do so much more if we had more,” she said.

Megan Murphy, the town’s fire marshal and director of emergency management, said getting training to community members should be a top priority.

“For example, I’m a certified EMT, but I can’t administer vaccines,” she said.

As an EMT, Bango said Murphy met the prerequisite to receive training to administer vaccines, but the training sessions have not yet begun.

“If someone meets the qualifications, getting trained to deliver the vaccine is an online class and a few hours of field training,” Bango said. A potential volunteer could likely complete the required training in a day once the sessions open, she said.

Bango and First Selectman Vicki Tesoro also advocated for state assistance in setting up regional vaccination centers, where local health departments could pool resources and staff and vaccinate larger numbers of people. Such a system would be more efficient and easier for recipients.

“We’ve seen with our testing center set up at Unity Park, last week they administered 900 tests,” Tesoro said. “It’s important that people know where to go to get a test, and when available, where they can go to get vaccinated.”

Bysiewicz said the state had administered 75,180 vaccinations as of Monday and expected to complete the first round of doses to nursing home residents by Saturday.

“But it’s a tremendous logistical challenge,” she said.

With the state making progress in vaccinating the people in Phase 1A, Bysiewicz said she anticipated vaccinations for people in Phase 1B, front-line essential workers and those over age 75, to begin in late January or early February. Phase 1C, people with serious health conditions and those over 65, will likely begin receiving their vaccines in the spring. Vaccinating the entire population would likely stretch into the summer, she said.

The good news, according to Bysiewicz, is that polling is starting to show that the public health messaging campaign is paying off.

“One of our concerns was getting the information about vaccines out to the public,” she said. “Last month, it looked like only 60 percent of Americans were willing to get vaccinated. In December, that number is now 70 percent.”

Tesoro said that statistic matched her anecdotal experience.

“People are clamoring for information about when they can get vaccinated,” she said.

deng@trumbulltimes.com