BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont was joined by state officials Monday to announce the deployment of the first FEMA mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit.
The inauguration of the mobile unit occurred at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport where the unit’s first vaccination clinic was held.
The governor was joined by Hartford Healthcare’s CEO Jeff Flaks, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, and officials from FEMA.
The effort is a partnership between FEMA and Hartford Healthcare and consists of two mobile trailers that will deliver vaccines to the 50 most vulnerable zip codes in Connecticut.
Flaks announced the mobile unit will move five times in the next 10 days to different “subcommunities” in Bridgeport to reach underserved communities.
Bridgeport officials spoke about the high population of people of color in the city and that the efforts by the federal government regarding the mobile vaccination units addresses inequity and accessibility of the vaccine in those communities.
The goal is to vaccinate 3,400 Bridgeport residents over the next 10 days to “stop COVID-19 in its tracks,” Flaks said.
But as News 8’s Chief Political Reporter found out, it wasn’t smooth sailing Monday for everyone.
Ellen Josephs from Bridgeport was asked by News 8 why she was upset?
“We showed up here and we don’t know if we are going to get vaccine today,” said Josephs.
Josephs took the day off from work after the state alerted her the FEMA van was doing a clinic in her city.
“I got an alert on the phone and I tried to make the appointment but it wasn’t allowing me to make the appointment so I called and they said we didn’t need to make an appointment, just walk in,” recalled Josephs.
But when she and thirty walk-up clients arrived they were told people with appointments were getting the shot first.
Josephs said, “I don’t want to be misinformed; I left work…I feel I should just go home.”
News 8 asked coordinators from Hartford Healthcare why they over booked the clinic.
Dr. James Cardon the Chief Clinical Integration Officer at Hartford Healthcare explained,”We were trying to notify people that it was here, to get that message out.”
The Federal Emergency Management trailer can distribute 250 doses per day using the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, provided by the state. So what about the walk-ups that waited in line?
Dr. Cardon said, “What will happen is if we have more walk-ups than we have vaccine then we will have them come back tomorrow when we can bring more vaccine to meet them.”
Not what Josephs wanted to hear.
“I thought when we come it would be smooth sailing,” said Josephs.
The mayor says the clinic will move to serve other vulnerable neighborhoods.
Mayor Ganim said, “Some of the high-rise mutli-family units where people have difficulty getting out.”
Paul Ford from FEMA the Federal Emergency Management Agency said bringing the vaccine to the people is what their goal is: “Those are the kinds of things that make a huge difference in equality of vaccine.”
FEMA will fully reimburse community’s which host clinics. It takes 50 people to staff and local police or National Guard must direct traffic.
Governor Ned Lamont said, “This is a race we need to win in Connecticut. All over America we’re gonna win it everywhere. There’s no alternative.”
The clinic is open to all Bridgeport residents 45 and older starting Monday, March 29 and runs through April 7.
The clinic will be at the Beardsley Zoo March 29-30, the Department of Public Health March 31 and April 1, Park City Magnet School/Trumbull Gardens April 2-3, P.T. Barnum Apartments April 4-5, and the Webster Bank Arena parking lot April 6-7.
Officials ask that you make an appointment ahead of time, but it is not required.
You can sign up for an appointment at HartfordHealthCare.org/vaccine or call Hartford HealthCare’s dedicated Bridgeport Resident Community Care Center at 860.827.7400.
The unit will be on loan to Connecticut for the next 60 days.