Milford preps for COVID vaccine

The Milford Health Department gets ready to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Milford Health Department gets ready to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — Some Milford residents may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of the month, according to Health Director Deepa Joseph.

The department has been planning for the arrival of the vaccine, and Joseph said state officials have told her to be ready to receive the vaccine some time in late December.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are five large-scale clinical trials undeway or planned for various coronavirus vaccines. The plan is to vaccinate the population in three phases, with the first phase focused on critical infrastructure workers. This includes long-term hospital care workers and first responders, Joseph said.

“That’s really a phase where the supply of the vaccine does not necessarily meet the demand,” she said.

The second phase will be where the supply catches up with demand, and eventually, the third phase will see the vaccine be readily available to the public.

To encourage people to take the vaccine, Joseph said information will be made available as soon as its known which vaccines are approved.

“We’d be able to provide a good amount of data to support information regarding the safety and advocacy of the vaccine,” she said.

A mass vaccination plan isn’t a new concept for the Milford Health Department. The department has long had a plan in place in anticipation of a worldwide influenza pandemic. The COVID vaccine will most likely be distributed according to the department’s flu vaccine plan, Joseph said.

“Years ago, we did a lot of work around pandemic influenza planning in anticipation of an influenza pandemic, and looking at how would we mass vaccinate,” she said. “We were able to utilize those plans back in 2009 with H1N1. We have utilized every clinic as an opportunity for a drill exercise, and prepare for anticipation of doing a COVID-19 clinic.”

Prior to the pandemic, the health department held monthly walk-in immunization clinics. Beginning in May, staff began taking online appointments, in preparation for a similar system for the COVID vaccine.

Costs for vaccine distribution include personal protective equipment and cold storage units to keep the vaccines at their recommended temperature. The state will reimburse local health departments up to $7,400 for immunization costs, money that Joseph said would be used to purchase supplies such as PPE and data loggers to continually monitor the temperature of the vaccine.

As far as how long it will take for life to return to normal, post-vaccine, that will depend on a number of factors, Joseph said. As more people receive the vaccine, she said, restrictions on things like social distancing could begin to be rolled back.

“We need to see how many people take the vaccine,” she said. “In the initial stages, it’s still going to be really critical that everyone is maintaining all those critical mitigation strategies that we have in place regarding wearing a mask, keeping a distance, washing your hands.”