New London

Nearly a Dozen Private School Staffers in New London Get COVID Vaccine Early in Error

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About a dozen people who work for The Williams School, a private school in New London, received a coronavirus vaccine that they weren’t eligible to get under the state’s current distribution phase.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health said “This was a notification and user error. The school informed us of the error and was able to address it quickly, vaccinating early a small number of people.”

A spokesperson for the college preparatory school for students in grade six through 12 said the Vaccine Administration Management System, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online application used to manage vaccine administration, prompted the school’s coronavirus coordinator to send in employee contact information, which they did.  

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Sharon Gaudreau, spokesperson for the Williams School, said in turn employees then received an email from VAMS saying they were eligible to make an appointment to get vaccinated.

Stephen Mansfield, the director of health for Ledge Light Health District, said while he can’t comment about what happened at the school, once he was made aware that this was happening he reached out to the school.

Gaudreau said the school immediately sent out an email to employees and all future appointments were cancelled.

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The school believes around 11 people received the vaccine before they were alerted of the error. Staff members were not required to tell the school if they were going to get it.

“Just this morning we’re providing clarification to all of our municipalities that if they’re doing updates for rosters, for eligible participants to make sure their eligible under 1A,” said Mansfield.

He adds, “DPH has also put in place a mechanism , just yesterday morning we received a communication asking us to put in place a safeguard if we stand up a public clinic to ensure that people who come to the clinic are actually eligible to get the vaccine.”

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School officials said they’ve been informed from health officials that employees who already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get the second.

Max Reiss, spokesperson for Gov. Ned Lamont, said, this was a “minor communication error in the midst of a historic, and by and large, successful rollout,” an effort that “has never been done before in human history.”

Reiss said this rollout won’t be perfect and minor mistakes will happen.

While he’s not sure what caused the glitch, Reiss said the governor’s office continues to work with the vaccine advisory group to determine processes and which partners are available to help get the word out about distribution efforts.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the CDC for comment and they said, “VAMS is an optional, web-based application that supports planning and execution for temporary, mobile, or satellite COVID-19 vaccination clinics, as well as traditional medical practices that do not have existing IT systems for vaccination clinic management; and they referred us back to the state.”

Gaudreau said there was no malice or bad intent and they believed they were following protocols.  

She sent this statement, “Throughout the pandemic, The Williams School has continued to provide in person learning due to success in following CDC and Ledge Light Health District protocols and guidelines. We have great partnerships with the Department of Public Health, the Department of Education, and the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools to support everyone's safety and well being and we look forward to continuing to do so.”

The Williams School shared content of the email they said they received from VAMS/CDC on December 24, 2020:

Your organization has been identified as a critical infrastructure group by your state. This means your employees are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. In order for your employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you must first create an account for your organization using the link below. Once you create an account and register, you will be able to upload your employee roster in the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) portal. Using the employee roster, we will contact each employee to register and schedule their vaccination appointments.

Thanks,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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