Vaccination clinics planned for school staff in greater Bridgeport and the Valley

Photo of Cayla Bamberger
Chris Varcoe, a teacher from Roger Ludlowe Middle School, in Fairfield, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Bigelow Center clinic in Fairfield, Conn. March 1, 2021.

Chris Varcoe, a teacher from Roger Ludlowe Middle School, in Fairfield, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Bigelow Center clinic in Fairfield, Conn. March 1, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

The first COVID-19 vaccination clinics open to educators were held on Monday, as teachers, school staff and child care providers joined the list of those eligible for the jabs.

Several clinics have been planned for educators this week, including in Milford, Trumbull, Stratford, Bridgeport, Fairfield, Ansonia and Derby. Doses are limited for this first stretch, but school districts and health departments have joined forces to quickly distribute as much vaccine as possible — a big step in getting school-aged children back to some semblance of normalcy.

In Milford, teachers and other staff can sign up for the vaccine through their schools, according to Mayor Ben Blake. A closed, educators-only clinic will replace the standard Bridgeport Hospital site on Tuesday. Public and private school employees can also get vaccinated on Wednesday and Friday at the local health department clinic.

“By the end of next week, everyone will be vaccinated, at least for their first shot,” said Blake.

School officials in Trumbull circulated a survey revealing that about 80 percent of staff who had not been vaccinated would sign up for a special clinic. About 1,000 public school staff are eligible, plus a few hundred more from the town’s four private schools, according to education and health department estimates.

The Trumbull Health Department anticipates 800 Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses for school staff. The department will distribute the vaccines this week — the exact day dependent on when the shipment arrives — and require proof of eligibility, such as school identification cards or pay stubs.

The closed weekly clinics will continue in Trumbull until everyone who wants a vaccine has gotten one. Alternatively, school workers are being told that they can sign up through VAMS, the federal vaccine management system. Appointments through that system were being given for as far out as May for some, including those 55 and older who also became eligible for the vaccine on Monday.

Stratford educators, including support staff and child care providers, can get vaccinated at a closed clinic on Saturday or in a couple of weeks on March 16. The department expects to finish the first round of doses by the end of this month, and second doses will be distributed in April.

Teachers and other staff are encouraged to schedule appointments at educator-only hubs through VAMS.

Andrea Boissevain, Stratford’s health director, said there aren’t enough vaccine doses for all teachers and school staff this first week. “We ordered 1,000 and received only 400 (dosages),” she wrote in an email. “So we’re doing the best we can.”

In Bridgeport, closed vaccine clinics at Central High School are scheduled for Friday after school, Saturday afternoon and all-day March 12. Superintendent Michael Testani expects the district will inoculate a couple hundred workers per day on Friday and Saturday, and about 600 to 700 next Friday — for a total of 1,200 to 1,300 people to vaccinate.

“I’m being told we should be fine — there’s going to be enough supply,” he said.

Some workers in Bridgeport public schools got the vaccine already, because they were eligible by age or by mistake. For everyone else, Testani is encouraging them to get vaccinated through the district.

“I’ve urged them to wait for our clinics, so they don’t take a spot from 55 and older,” he said. Testani sent an email this morning to school staff, asking them to cancel any appointments through the district or VAMS they’re not using, he said, “because that takes an appointment away from someone else.”

Fairfield hosted a site Monday not exclusively for teachers, but about 1,000 people who had appointments for the Moderna vaccine were mostly educators.

More than a half-dozen people who received doses on Monday described the process from sign-up to vaccination as easy.

Jill Mitchell, a nursing supervisor in the school district, called the clinics so far a success. “We haven’t had to waste a single dose,” she said.

Ansonia and Derby school districts organized a vaccine clinic with Griffin Hospital and Naugatuck Valley Health District for Saturday at the Ansonia High School gymnasium. In addition to the two districts’ staff, employees of Emmett O’Brien Technical School, St. Mary-St. Michael School and Assumption School, and the All-Star bus drivers serving the districts, also have access to the closed site.

Ansonia Superintendent Joseph DiBacco said a Pfizer dose will be waiting for anyone who signs up.

“Griffin has more than enough supply,” he said. “When all is said and done from Ansonia, about 500 people are eligible.”

Teachers and other employees will receive a link to Griffin Hospital’s registration portal, rather than VAMS, to sign up for the closed site. If school staff can’t make the clinic, DiBacco said Griffin Hospital and NVHD will give them priority this month to schedule a vaccination.

DiBacco expects that about 95 percent of school employees will be vaccinated by the end of March.

“I hope the staff will feel more comfortable now,” he said. “I love my Ansonia staff and want to do everything I can to make sure they feel comfortable in the buildings.”

Staff writers Donald Eng, Clare Dignan and Ethan Fry contributed to this report.