Waterbury holds Connecticut’s first COVID vaccine clinic solely for teachers, school staff, paraeducators, bus drivers

New Haven

WATERBURY, CONN. (WTNH) — Brenda Falcone jumped at the chance to make an appointment and be one of the first educators in Waterbury to get a COVID vaccine at the city’s new clinic for teachers, educators, administrators and school district staff, like bus drivers and cafeteria workers and paraprofessionals.

RELATED: ‘I can’t wait’: Waterbury opening state’s first mass COVID vaccination clinic for educators next week

“I want to be protected not just for my own family, but for my students, their families,” said Falcone, a special ed teacher at Gilmartin School. She not only feels an extra layer of protection with the shot, she feels it may allow her to come in contact with her students again. She believes they will be the real winners from clinics like these.

“Being a special education teacher, I’m so used to being hands-on right next to my students,” she said. “Just working with them with hands-on materials. It’s been very difficult having them sign in through a computer screen. It’s very overwhelming.”

Teachers aren’t the only ones hoping for a return to in-person learning soon. Superintendent, Dr. Verna Ruffin, previously told News 8 she hopes this clinic could help to restore in-person learning in March.

“We see our most vulnerable students in elementary schools who really need to see their teacher,” said Dr. Ruffin. “And to be able to learn phonics and learn reading skills that are essential and can’t always be done effectively electronically.”

They made available 500 appointments on this day. All 500 slots were filled in a couple of hours via a sign-up process already set up.

“It tells me a lot of people want this vaccine,” said Adam Rinko, Waterbury’s Director of Emergency Management.

He tells News 8 he knows not everyone who wanted the vaccine on this first day got it. He assures the education community the city is working to get more of the vaccine from the state and federal level.

“Be as patient as possible,” he said. “We are going to get to you as soon as we can get more of the vaccine.”

The president of the teachers union in Waterbury gives the city, Health Department, and the school district high marks for establishing this clinic exclusively for school staff.

They will administer an additional 500 shots over each of the next four days. They were able to get a clinic solely for educators up and running so quickly thanks to a larger mass vaccination site already up and running by Trinity Health of New England. They incorporated this special clinic into that one and took what they’ve learned, applying it to the smaller clinic for the all-important education community.

“I think we made significant strides early on with vaccinations getting done and we continually seem to be leading the way throughout the state with our model,” Rinko said.

He’s not only proud from a public health official persepective, he’s also proud as a concerned parent with children in Waterbury Public Schools.

As a father, it’s my hope my kids will go back full time to school as soon as possible and the teachers — they themselves will be protected.”

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