'A pleasant experience': Norwalk mayor gets first COVID-19 vaccine dose

Photo of Abigail Brone
Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling receives his first dose of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling receives his first dose of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine Tuesday, Feb. 16.

City of Norwalk / Contributed

NORWALK — After eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine was expanded last week to include residents over 65, Mayor Harry Rilling, 72, received his first dose of the vaccine Tuesday morning.

Rilling visited the city’s Health Department vaccination clinic at the Norwalk Senior Center and was given the first dose of the Moderna vaccine around 10:30 a.m. Around 1:15 p.m., Rilling said he was still without side effects of the vaccine.

“I’m feeling fine,” Rilling said. “No soreness in my arm, no obvious side effects for now. It’s only a few hours old, but still it was a pleasant experience and it was something I was looking forward to the moment I became eligible.”

As the Moderna vaccine requires a 28-day separation between the first and second doses, Rilling is scheduled to receive his second dose on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

“There aren’t many celebrations scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day anyway, but this is mine,” he said.

To date, the city Health Department has administered more than 2,500 vaccines with no reports of negative side effects aside from sore arms and some fatigue, Rilling said.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont, 67, received his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at The First Cathedral in Bloomfield. The clinic at the cathedral, set up just for the day, was held in partnership with Trinity Health of New England, according to a governor’s office statement.

Forty-seven members of the church also signed up in advance to be vaccinated at Tuesday’s clinic.

Lamont was the only white person scheduled to receive the vaccine at the state’s largest predominantly Black congregation, according to First Cathedral.

While not comprehensive, data from the state Department of Public Health show more than half of all COVID-19 vaccine doses given in Connecticut as of Feb. 3 went to white people. About 3.4 percent of the doses went to people who self-identified as black, 5.2 percent of doses were given to those identifying as Hispanic and 2.6 percent went to people identifying as Asian.

Having received the vaccine, Rilling said he plans to spread awareness and further educate the community on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in the hopes of increasing the number of people of color that are vaccinated.

“We, like any other community, are noticing the vast majority of people receiving the vaccine are well-to-do and not people of color,” Rilling said. “We need to, and we trying to, get our arms around that as they are the most vulnerable.”

So far, Rilling said the main forms of information dissemination for communities of color have been through partnering with churches with predominately members of color and community pastors to help increase community confidence in the vaccine’s safety.