L+M staff launches COVID-19 vaccination site at Mitchell College
New London — Tom and Susan Fournier drove from Westport to New London early Monday morning intent on being among the first to get vaccinated at Yale New Haven Health’s COVID-19 vaccination site at Mitchell College.
They arrived outside the low-slung section of the Student Center that houses the De Biasi Drive site at 6:30 a.m. — two hours before their scheduled appointments, which their daughter had helped them arrange.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Tom said. “We heard there might be long lines.”
The site, manned by staff from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, a Yale New Haven Health affiliate, functioned smoothly at the start Monday, with vaccinators expecting to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 131 people by the end of the day. All of those receiving the shots — currently reserved for residents 75 and older as part of the state’s phased rollout of the vaccine — had made appointments in advance.
There were no long lines.
“This is an exciting day,” said Patrick Green, L+M’s president and chief executive officer. “This is the next step in defeating this pandemic. We’re excited to be serving the community in this way. We’ll be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m to 8 p.m., and we’re going to be here as long as we have vaccine.”
Mark Rogers, L+M’s director of pharmacy, said more than a dozen L+M staff members were on hand in addition to the vaccinators, helping register patients and monitoring them after they received the shot. It takes about 10 minutes to administer the shot, he said, and afterwards patients must remain under surveillance in a waiting area in the event they experience side effects. Staff members also help arrange appointments for the second dose of the vaccine, which needn’t be administered in the same location as the first.
The first person vaccinated Monday was Humphrey Nichols, 84, of Fairfield, who, like the Fourniers, had scheduled his appointment days earlier through the Yale New Haven Health website.
“I was hearing about so much frustration people were having getting scheduled,” he said. “I went through Yale, and boom, this (the Mitchell College site) came right up.”
He said his wife had gotten the vaccine earlier after lining up an appointment through VAMS, the online Vaccine Administration Management System operated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Appointments also can be made by phone.
“We’re looking forward to vaccinating the 65 and older,” said Dr. Kevin Torres, L+M’s associate chief medical officer, referring to the next segment of the population that will be eligible to receive the virus, perhaps in a week or two.
“That’s still the demographic of most of our (COVID-19) patients in the hospital, the older end of the spectrum, and our numbers have been up the last four weeks,” Torres said. “It’s definitely in the community. With vaccinations, we’ll see the numbers come down.”
Torres emphasized that people must continue to wear masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing.
“We’re still learning about this virus, and as Dr. (Anthony) Fauci says, we need to get vaccinations up to 80% of the population to have immunity,” he said.
Torres said data suggest the first dose of the vaccine is about 50% to 60% effective in preventing someone from contracting the coronavirus disease and that it’s 90% effective after the second dose. While a person should ideally get the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine 21 days after receiving the first dose, it’s still effective if it’s taken later, Torres said.
“Getting the second dose late is not as much of an issue as getting it too soon (after the first dose),” he said.
Nichols and the Fourniers took their vaccinations in stride.
“Watching on television, it looks like such a long needle, but I didn’t feel a thing,” Tom Fournier said.
How to schedule a vaccination appointment
To schedule an appointment through the Yale New Haven Health System, including the L+M site at Mitchell College and Northeast Medical Group sites at 194 Howard St., New London, and 633 Middlesex Ave., Old Saybrook, visit www.ynhhs.org/covidvaccine.
Appointments can also be made through the state Department of Public Health at bit.ly/ctvaccine.
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