Valley health department, Griffin hope to partner on youth vaccine clinics

Caitlin Kelley, LPN, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Christopher Nicholas Coideo of Seymour April 9 at the Naugatuck Valley Health District vaccine clinic at the Seymour Community Center.

Caitlin Kelley, LPN, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Christopher Nicholas Coideo of Seymour April 9 at the Naugatuck Valley Health District vaccine clinic at the Seymour Community Center.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

The Naugatuck Valley Health District is working with Griffin Hospital to hold vaccine clinics for 16- to 18-year-olds in the Valley — but no formal dates or locations are set as of yet.

NVHD Health Director Jessica Kristy said the health district would be organizing the clinic or clinics, with Griffin Hospital providing the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one approved for use with the age groups.

Gov. Ned Lamont has called for health departments to prioritize alliance school districts — such as Ansonia-Derby — but Kristy said her goal is to make the vaccine available to all in the health district’s coverage area which also includes Shelton, Seymour, Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.

"There is a lot of planning needed to set up a mass vaccination site,” Kristy said. “We are trying to establish a realistic timeline to pull off another large clinic like the ones we helped organize in Shelton” for school district employees.

Kristy said it remains unclear whether it will be one mass clinic, concurrent clinics in various Valley locations or spaced out clinics over a series of dates. She said the district is working on finding locations and transportation for those families unable to get to the sites once they are chosen.

“The message is we want to do them and will do them, but it will take time,” Kristy said.

The push for a youth clinic comes as each Valley community remains — like most municipalities in the state — a COVID-19 hot spot.

The most recent data released by the state Department of Public Health shows Shelton, while still high, with the fewest active cases in the Valley. Between March 21 and April 3, Shelton had 174 positive cases, 30.2 per 100,000. In the same time period, Derby was 59.9 per 100,000, Seymour 55.4, Naugatuck 53.6 and Ansonia 49.2 per 100,000.

The numbers led Lamont to specifically point to Seymour, Derby and Naugatuck, among others, as hot spots that need to be addressed.

Kristy reminded residents that NVHD hosts clinics every Thursday and Friday at the Seymour Community Center. The clinics started in mid-January, and attendance, she said, has been strong. In March, NVHD vaccinated 2,122 people.

But getting the vaccine does not eliminate the need for mitigation strategies, Kristy said. People should continue to wear masks, social distance and wash hands regularly.

“We remind clients that getting the vaccine good … it is approved to prevent serious illness and death, not necessarily prevent you from contracting the virus or passing it on,” Kristy said. “We always remind people when they come” to the Seymour clinics.

Kristy said the district is seeing an increase in positive cases, many coming from a younger population — the 20 to 30 year age group — and it is Valleywide.

"People need to stay mindful,” she said, noting that schools are opening back up fully, sports are starting again and, with the better weather, families and friends are holding more gatherings. “People are letting their guard down.”

Kristy said the district, along with the clinics, has a contact tracing team — three full timers and one part timer — meeting on a weekly conference call with school administrators once a week and also aid each municipality with mitigation strategies.

Appointments for the Seymour clinics open Friday afternoon. She said the district expects a delivery of some 400 doses a week and see 150 to 200 each clinic day.

“I can’t thank all the people who work here, who volunteer,” Kristy said about her crew, which includes NVHD employees as nurses and doctors, full time and retired, paramedics and even a veterinarian.

“They want to help the community. It is encouraging to see people want to expand their personal expertise and volunteer time to help their neighbors. I would not be able to make this happen without them,” she said.