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Vaccinations With Less Red Tape: Hartford Strives For Better Outreach

Ahjané Forbes
Connecticut Public
Tammy Mendes, 49, of Hartford was vaccinated Monday. She didn't have to participate in the appointment crunch many other Connecticut residents jumped into after the state opened vaccinations to people aged 45 to 54.

With the state recently opening up its COVID-19 vaccine program to Connecticut residents who are 45 to 54 years old, more people are now in the queue to get shots.

But some people are finding they don’t have to get in line.

Tammy Mendes, 49, was vaccinated at the Charter Oak Health Center’s Parkville clinic just a few days after she became eligible.

”Charter Oak Health called me and told me that I had an appointment today, and they called me last week and just told me to show up here and I’m here,” she said.

All Mendes had to do was pick up her phone.

“We schedule them for Mondays, find out if they’re available, and then we put them on the schedule for the clinic days so that they can come in to receive their vaccination,” said TJ Clarke, Charter Oak’s director of marketing and government affairs.

Instead of waiting for them to sign up, Clarke’s unit reaches out directly to people in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood.

In a perfect world where there’s equitable vaccine distribution to people living in cities, everyone would have the kind of accessibility Mendes had. But supply is an issue, and it’s hard to ensure that everyone who needs a call gets one.

“I think we are gradually getting there,” Clarke said.

Clarke wants a “vaccine blitz” in Hartford, with city officials going door-to-door to sign up people.

“We continue to have conversations,” Clarke said. “There has to be a strategic approach -- so, you can’t just pitch something and run with it. You’ve got to make sure that all your resources are there.”

City offficials hope to begin making appointments as they canvas neighborhoods to educate residents about vaccines. They also may offer no-appointment walk-up clinics as soon as April.

Mendes, the 49-year-old Hartford resident vaccinated Monday, said now that she’s had the shot, she’d like to spend more time with loved ones she’s been a part from during the pandemic.

“We’re a close family and we’re used to doing things together, and with all this COVID stuff going around, we haven’t been together for a while,” Mendes said.

She says that maybe her family will get together for Easter.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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