Vernon town leaders have heard from many locals eligible to get vaccinated, but struggling to sign up through the state system.
So, officials there are taking matters into their own hands.
With just hours to spare until ta vaccine clinic was set to open Friday at their senior center, “we had 52 people registered. We know we have 240 slots," said Town Administrator Michael Purcaro.
He said it’s not that people don’t want to get the vaccine but other issues.
“The biggest barrier that we are facing right now is not the supply of vaccine locally, but the accessibly and user-friendliness to the registration system that's online and the telephone number that also has been provided to our residents.”
Currently the state uses an online scheduling portal called Vaccine Administration Management System, better known as "VAMS," for sign up and there’s a number to call for help.
But as NBC Connecticut has reported and Vernon town officials have heard from callers, if you don’t have a computer, internet, an email address or you don’t speak English, it’s a struggle to sign up.
“Personally I don’t know that I would have recommended for my grandmother to do it herself as there were different steps to take,” said Gina DePesquale, who helped her grandmother sign up for a Vernon appointment.
With a list of Friday appointments open, Vernon vaccine distribution organizers said they knew they had to do something fast, so coronavirus vaccine doses wouldn’t just go down the drain.
With volunteers and town workers, they set up a call center alerting eligible seniors Friday morning to tell them they had appointments available and they’d help them with the sign-up process.
“I was called directly by the town,” said Alan Abatayo of Vernon after receiving the vaccine.
His wife said she was still nervously waiting for a VAMS confirmation when they got the call.
Keith Grant, an infection prevention expert on Governor Lamont’s COVID-19 vaccine advisory group said VAMS does as it’s designed to do.
“There’s an allotted amount of vaccines. There’s a certain amount of spots and VAMS ensures that you can go in and register for the spots.”
But he said the state is working on multiple ways to address the gaps in the system.
“Some communities, and you pointed on one community, that have actually gone out and grabbed people and brought them in who probably couldn’t register, so we have to look at how to do that on a larger scale.”
He said that is challenging logistically.
“Having it in a general community where we’re looking at thousands of people, we still have to find a way how to make it organized, but make it very easy for people to access.”
In the meantime, Vernon leaders continue to look for volunteers as they do their best to connect the dots, filing in the gaps for a system who can only to do so much for certain people.
“We are moving heaven and earth with our mayor and our team that we’ve assembled to get vaccine into the arms of people who are qualified as directed by Governor Lamont in a timely and efficient way,” said Purcaro.