Ledge Light Health District, which covers a portion of New London county, is working to identify and remove sign-up barriers for people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut.
"We want to make this as accessible and easy to use as possible," said Jennifer Muggeo, the deputy director of LLHD.
LLHD launched a new sign-up form this week to help people get appointments at vaccine clinics they host.
When a new clinic date is announced, a sign-up form for the specific date will be added to their website. People are invited to fill out the form, which is a secure link, and pick a time for their appointment. They are also able to call LLHD and someone can assist over the phone.
The process enables people to bypass the Vaccine Administration Management System, which has been difficult for some people, especially those with limited phone and internet access, to navigate.
"It doesn't require the two-factor authentication that VAMS did which was causing a lot of problems for folks," said Muggeo. "It also gives us the ability to make the form available for folks in Spanish, which has been a barrier."
LLHD is limited by the amount of doses they receive each week. The number of doses they receive dictates the amount of appointments they can schedule at clinics.
The sign-up form requires people to attest to being eligible during the registration process and again at the clinic. The health district launched the form Wednesday for their Thursday clinic in Groton. All vaccine appointments were filled.
While the sign-up form allows people to bypass VAMS, LLHD still reports all required information.
"We are doing our part on the back-end with reporting through VAMS, but eliminating the barriers for others in the front-end," said Muggeo. "These are anxiety inducing times for everybody and having to navigate a complicated computer system shouldn't be adding to that anxiety."
Patricia Bolles, who lives in New London, was having trouble signing up before the new form. She originally was not able to get an appointment until April, despite being eligible now. She saw the link for the new sign-up form and jumped on it immediately.
"And it works!" said Bolles. "It is just so simple."
Kerensa Mansfield, who lives in Stonington, agrees. Mansfield works at LLHD, in a separate department from vaccine distribution, and was able to sign her grandparents up for their vaccines today.
"Much, much more user friendly," said Mansfield. "We did that yesterday and here we are today!"
According to Muggeo, LLHD is planning on hosting two clinics next week. They will host one in New London and one in North Stonington. Sign-up forms for those clinics will be added to their website soon.
The health district will strategically plan to host clinics in places where vaccine rates are low. The state released town-by-town data showing what percentage of the eligible 75+ population has received their first dose of the vaccine. In New London, for example, about 31% of the 75+ population has received their first dose.
“Bringing clinics where there is a documented inequity and need," said Muggeo. “We just hope that we can continue to identify and remove the barriers for folks getting a vaccine appointment.”