CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — There have been several reported incidents of people inadvertently jumping the vaccine line around the state and problems with elderly residents getting appointments through the state portal.
The breakdown came to a head when the town of Vernon held its own vaccine clinic. Officials there are stepping up because they said the state portal was too challenging.
Issues ranged from a language barrier, phone lines were jammed and seniors not able to navigate the online scheduling system.
“One of our main jobs as politicians, as a government, is public safety,” said Vernon Mayor Dan Champagne. “We feel this is what we’re doing. We are gonna help as many as we can get the vaccine.”
On Monday, the governor took issue with the notion that the state isn’t prepared and a “war of words” was triggered.
“If you want to solve a problem call me,” responded Governor Ned Lamont. “If you want to score political points, have another press conference.”
The East Hartford vaccine clinic at the old airstrip on the Pratt and Whitney property was the only option one elderly diabetic had when she called the state scheduling line for her COVID shot.
Dottie Konarski of Vernon said, “I’m not sitting in 10 lanes of traffic.”
After hundreds of stressed seniors like Konarski called Vernon town officials unable to get through state channels, the town set up a local vaccine clinic at the senior center.
Dr. Diedre Gifford the Acting Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner acknowledged the issues.
“We hear it. Our team is on it.”
The state, she said, is adding three more mass clinic sites this week.
The DPH, through the United Way, has hired more phone operators. They are also including sign up directions in several different languages on the website.
The state is fixing the online appointment portal to include a map so schedulers can find appointments closer to those 75 and older.
Governor Lamont stands by his team saying, “Tell a friend that this is easy, you can register online.”
But many local leaders said navigating the state’s COVID site is not easy. In Fairfield, 200 frustrated residents left voicemails looking for help.
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick explained, “The state sends different information almost every day. It’s difficult for a town like ours to pivot and react to those quick changing decisions.”
Fairfield has now set up a hotline in the basement of the town hall staffed with volunteers to handle the sheer volume of calls. There are also reports of those in their 60s and some teachers jumping the line inadvertently because the state site accidentally let them in.
Dr. Diedre Gifford pushed back saying, “This issue is a very tiny proportion of the very large number of our seniors, we’re happy to say and to see getting their vaccine.”
In Vernon, 240 seniors did receive their shot including Dottie Konarski. “It beats being intubated. God bless the ones who have.”
The state receives about 46,000 doses a week. Providers order a week in advance and the state divides up the available vaccine.
“We don’t have enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone who wants it right now,” Gifford said. “Be patient, keep trying to get that appointment.”
DPH said id has inspectors doing spot checks to make sure everyone in line is supposed to be in line. The COVID vaccine web portal can be found on the state’s website.