Hundreds of people received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Vernon on Friday. The town is holding clinics around the region, and starting Saturday, they’re hoping to help people with other health concerns.
“I have never been so happy to get a shot in my life,” said Vernon resident Kathleen LaPlante.
Before getting that shot at the Vernon Senior Center, LaPlante says she tried other avenues to get one with frustration and no success.
“It has been a nightmare. I’ve called up, it has taken so long to get through, and then you go on the computer. And everything is fine, and then all of a sudden you’re back on another page again. And I had help too,” said LaPlante.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
But when she heard about Vernon’s program, she gave their regional hotline a call and on Friday got her vaccine.
Two hundred people received their shot at the clinic, and the town’s vaccination program is doing up to 10 clinics a week all over the region. Friday was the first time they administered the new one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Every dose we get, we get out to the public. We don’t waste a single dose, and we’re going to continue to do that for as long as necessary to beat this virus,” said Vernon Town Administrator and Emergency Management Director Michael Purcaro. “The virus doesn’t recognize zip codes, neither do we. So we’re taking care of many, many of our neighboring towns, working together in partnership.”
Working with towns, the state, and the local health department, Purcaro says their regional call center helps to simplify the registration process.
“That allows people to make one phone call, and we take care of all the registration and scheduling including the second dose as well for people if they’re getting Moderna or Pfizer vaccine,” said Purcaro.
Purcaro says they do mobile clinics, visit the homes of people who are homebound, and get creative to reach the underserved.
“We go to faith-based organizations, churches, mosques. We go to congregate living. We’ve gone to food pantries. You’ve got to make this as easy as possible for people, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here,” said Purcaro.
Officials say one of the biggest questions they’ve been getting lately is what is the best vaccine.
“The best vaccine to get is the one that’s available today,” said Purcaro.
Once people get their shot, they need to sit and wait for a short period of time for observation. And that time, the town says, is something they want to take advantage of. So starting at Saturday’s clinic, they’re adding a health and wellness element where people can get information and a free medical consultation with a healthcare professional on a variety of topics.
“We’ve got 15 minutes of people’s undivided attention. That is precious time. We might as well use it to help educate people, to help them help themselves and lead healthier lives beyond just getting vaccinated,” said Purcaro.
Those eligible to receive a vaccine and who live in the Vernon region need to sign up if they want to get vaccinated through the Vernon Vaccination Program. Vernon has a regional call center you can call at 860.896.4568. You can also go to Vernon’s website for more information: https://www.vernon-ct.gov/covid-19