Thousands use Fairfield's website to sign up for COVID vaccine

A Fairfield Health Department vaccination clinic on Jan. 7, in which approximately 1,850 people were vaccinated.

A Fairfield Health Department vaccination clinic on Jan. 7, in which approximately 1,850 people were vaccinated.

/ Fairfield Health Department / Contributed

FAIRFIELD — While the state Department of Public Health was working to get its website up and running, the Fairfield Health Department website went live ahead of time.

“We always have discussions with the state, but the discussions we were having over the past week were like, ‘Listen, we have slack in our clinics. We could take more people. The spots aren’t filling up,’” Sands Cleary, the director of the Health Department said.

That led to a situation, Cleary said, where the Fairfield Health Department was ready and approved to start the Phase 1B application process within a few hours last week on Monday morning.

“What it enabled us to do is fill up our clinics this week with those 75 and older,” Cleary said.

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From Jan. 11 to when the state launched its website on Jan. 14, more than 10,900 people signed up for appointments through Fairfield’s survey website, according to department data.

Cleary said it is allowed for people to sign up through their website, but to go to clinics in other towns. He said it was about getting people into the VAMS system, which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s logistics website that health officials use to approve people for vaccination.

“What we’re doing, with state approval, is just enabling people to get into the VAMS system,” he said. “Once they’re in that system, they’re free to chose any clinic.”

Cleary said this is similar to what is on the state website now.

Fairfield was given permission by the state to launch its own website and was able to get it up earlier because the town was already equipped to do surveys online, he said.

“We were just fortunate enough to have it in place and be able to do it, and be able to upload people into VAMS,” he said, adding the plan may be to transition into only having people use the state website.

Cleary said the state wanted to control who had access to VAMS, which created a purposeful bottleneck that enables the government to control who was getting the vaccine. He said some clinics were experiencing slack in their schedules, creating open spots health officials wanted to fill.

On Wednesday, Fairfield’s health department confirmed its vaccination website was no longer available and was instead directing people to the state one.

In a press conference last week, state officials praised local health departments for getting people into the VAMS system.

“We had said on Monday... that any provider who was doing vaccinations, if they had open slots available this week, that they could go ahead and start filling them with people who were 75 and older,” said Josh Geballe, the head of the state’s Department of Administrative Services. “We’re happy to see a couple health departments (did so). That’s a great head start on this process.”

Geballe said every town and city would have different places to get vaccinated, including going to town health departments, area hospitals and local pharmacies.

“In most cases its going to be a mesh of all of the above, as we continue to ramp up and, hopefully, get more doses coming in from the federal government,” he said.