Covid-19 Vaccine

Eastern Connecticut Works to Boost Vaccination Rate

It's a summer of pop-up clinics and vaccine outreach for public health workers across Eastern Connecticut.

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Joslyn Wakefield was not expecting to get vaccinated Friday. In fact, at one time she did not want to get vaccinated at all.

“I really opposed the vaccine when it first came out, but I rather have the vaccine so I can stay healthy, be healthy," said Wakefield, who lives in New London.

She said in the last several months she has changed her mind. She has seen more family members get vaccinated and she has learned more about the risks of getting the virus.

“Just getting different points of view from a lot of people that have it and I rather get a little sick from the shot than having to go to the hospital and not even know if I survive if I get Covid," said Wakefield.

Plus, she passed a pop-up clinic while she was riding her bike home. She decided Friday was the day.

"That's why we do it and that’s why we continue to do it. It’s those success stories," said Kristin Magnussen, a public health nurse with Ledge Light Health District.

You may have seen headlines about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a warning about Guillain-Barré syndrome. But those cases make up a minor fraction of a percentage, says Dr. John Torres. He continues to recommend getting a shot to protect you and your family from the dangers of COVID-19.

Several months ago, when vaccines were just rolling out, the health district would vaccinate about 500 to 600 people at one clinic. Now, Magnussen says the team is happy if they see five people.

They host pop-up clinics in various locations, at big events, and have ambassadors walk around to educate people about the vaccine. Still, they know there are unvaccinated people who they still have to reach.

“It’s frustrating. We know it works," said Magnussen of the vaccine.

According to the state's acting public health commissioner, the state has learned that people in the eastern half of the state are more reluctant to get vaccinated. The state is seeing lower vaccination rates in communities across eastern Connecticut.

“People have more questions, more concerns, about the safety of the vaccine, about, unfortunately, some myths," said Deidre Gifford, acting public health commissioner. “We are trying to debunk those myths and remind people that yes, there are small risks to getting a vaccine. That is true. It is accurate. But there are also much bigger risks from getting Covid."

The commissioner stressed the importance of continued education. She said it is also important that more pop-up mobile clinics are held across the state, especially in communities where transportation is a challenge.

Willimantic is hosting a Latino Fest Saturday. They will be offering vaccines.

"If you are vaccinated, you are safer," said Jim Bellano, director of economic development for Windham. "Windham, and northeast Connecticut in general, the rates are not the same as the optimum rates in the state. So we want to do as best we can to promote it."

Ledge Light Health District will continue to reach out to communities this summer.

NBC Connecticut met someone who passed on their pop-up clinic after reading information online.

“I’d have to change my own mind. I’d have to read enough to make me think that the risk is worth it," said Joseph Seaman, who lives in New London.

LLHD public health workers say they will continue to pop-up this summer, there to answer any questions.

“We will keep at it! Even if it is one person at a time," said Magnussen.

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