UPDATE: On April 13, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary told News 8 that the mobile vaccination clinics at the NRZ WOW Community Center and the North End Rec Center will not be opening Tuesday “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — It looks like the first time was the charm. When the State Department of Public Health and Griffin Health teamed up to deliver doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Waterbury at a first-come, first-serve walk-in clinic, hundreds formed a huge line outside the North End Rec Center.
On Monday, the only people outside the WOW/NRZ Community Learning Center on Walnut Street were the police officers who were supposed to manage what was supposed to be another huge crowd. It didn’t happen.
News 8 staying there for a few hours at the start of the day. Griffin Health had 300 J&J doses to give out. By midday, they had only administered about 20 shots.
“Nobody’s happy about the numbers,” Cuevas said. “I think we were anticipating a lot more.”
We hit the streets to try and find out why turnout was so low.
“Because nobody wants that shot at all,” said a Waterbury resident who lives near the learning center. “Nobody knows about that shot.”
According to Cuevas, since the clinic opened last week at the Baldwin Rec Center, they’ve given out 500 COVID vaccination shots. He and other city officials say they’ve worked hard to try and eliminate the skepticism over the vaccine.
Over the last several weeks, they’ve held mobile pop-up clinics that have taken the vaccine directly to what they call “hard to reach” communities — like seniors and African-Americans, who may not be physically able to get themselves to a vaccination site or who may not have transportation.
The city’s Director of Emergency Management, Adam Rinko, telling News 8 repeatedly how proud he is of that program, which has gotten around a thousand shots in the arms of some residents who may not have gotten vaccinated without those clinics.
However, Cuevas admits more work needs to be done: “We’re strategizing to do some pop-up clinics — not only to vaccinate — but to educate where we can have some health vendors come out in collaboration with the city and provide some literature,” he said.
Something else may have contributed to the low turnout. One woman who lives in the area and who did not want to be identified showed us a flyer she received. It did not include information about today’s clinic. But, it did have information about a clinic happening at WOW/NRZ later in the week.
She says it may have led to confusion.
“My paper here says different dates than today’s date,” she said.
News 8 went to Waterbury City Hall to try and get a clarification.
“There had been a mobile vaccination clinic pre-established on our schedule,” said Mack Demac, Chief of Staff for Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary. “At the end of last week, the governor’s office, the state DPH came to the table with additional resources to increase the availability of vaccines in our community especially within the zip codes of those who are most vulnerable. So, ultimately, there was a flyer that had this initial NRZ testing site and times on it and then we had then supplemented that with an additional flyer.”
And city crews spent part of the afternoon passing out more flyers letting people know about the walk-up clinics (no appointment necessary) that will be available to them for at least the rest of the week:
- North End Rec Center —
Tuesday, April 13, through Friday, April 16, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 268 N. Main St.
- WOW NRZ Community Learning Center —
Tuesday, April 13, 9 a.m.-3 p.mand Wednesday, April 14, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., WALK UP. 308 Walnut Street
- Berkely Warner Rec Center –Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 277 Long Hill Road
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only administered to people 18 and older. News 8 speaking to one of the few people who showed up at WOW/NRZ Monday. He told us he is grateful for the walk-in clinic and his vaccination shot.
“It’ll help get life back to normal,” said Dave Dufour, of Waterbury.