Nurses hit road to bring COVID vaccine to Shelton homebound residents

Kristie D'Averso, public health nurse with the Naugatuck Valley Health District, was among a group of nurses and EMTs that visited homebound Shelton residents on April 7 to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Kristie D'Averso, public health nurse with the Naugatuck Valley Health District, was among a group of nurses and EMTs that visited homebound Shelton residents on April 7 to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Getting a COVID-19 vaccine for the general population can be difficult. For those homebound people, it can be nearly impossible.

That’s where the Naugatuck Valley Health District comes in.

NVHD nurses joined forces with Echo Hose Ambulance Corps providers last week to vaccinate 20 homebound Shelton residents. NVHD Health Director Jessica Kristy says the plan is for each community in the district’s coverage area — Shelton, Seymour, Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Ansonia and Derby — to have a specific day for these vaccine visits to homebound residents.

“All their reactions … it was a lot of fun,” Kristie D’Aversa, a public health nurse with NVHD, said about her vaccine visits last week to nine Shelton homes.

The homebound residents received the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. Kristy said nurses help the residents complete the paperwork and enter their information into the state’s system.

“The people were so excited to see us,” D’Aversa said. “They were so grateful and relieved to have someone come to give them the vaccine.”

Echo Hose Ambulance Assistant Chief Joe Laucella said many homebound residents have medical conditions that prevent them from leaving their homes or hospital bed, “making it very difficult to get to a local vaccine clinic.”

Kristy said the health district has been collecting information from various sources — such as seniors centers — about people who are medically or physically unable to attend clinics like the one hosted by the health district Thursdays and Fridays at the Seymour Community Center.

“We then looked to partner with our local EMS operations to help these people,” Kristy said. “Shelton had the most people in this situation, so we started there first. But we have a list for all six of our towns.”

Laucella said Kristy worked with the city to collect the names and addresses of residents who needed assistance.

Rose Pryor, a longtime Shelton resident and retired registered nurse, volunteers her time administering COVID-19 vaccines to Valley residents at the Naugatuck Valley Health District vaccine clinics held every Thursday and Friday at the Seymour Community Center.

Rose Pryor, a longtime Shelton resident and retired registered nurse, volunteers her time administering COVID-19 vaccines to Valley residents at the Naugatuck Valley Health District vaccine clinics held every Thursday and Friday at the Seymour Community Center.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

Two teams — with NVHD nurses riding along with Echo Hose Ambulance nurses — hit the road April 7. Each team vaccinated 10 people in a span of about eight hours.

They are planning more home visits on Wednesday and April 21.

“Addressing 20 in one day was a tremendous effort on the staff’s part as well as the EMTs,” Kristy said, adding that she ordered 100 doses for this effort. “Some health districts are only doing five at a time. We try to aim big … we want to address as many as we could here.”

Rose Pryor, a retired nurse and longtime Shelton resident, will join the vaccine teams Wednesday to aid her fellow city residents.

“I will go wherever they need to help,” said Pryor, a hospital-trained nurse who has done home care in the past. “The more (vaccines) we do, the more consistently we do it, this area will be in good shape, that’s the goal. If that is my small contribution, I will be there.”

Pryor volunteered her services to NVHD at the onset of the pandemic, when Gov. Ned Lamont made the call for medical professionals to offer their expertise in the fight against COVID-19.

“The people being vaccinated are so grateful … they are so happy to have this being done,” Pryor said, adding that she has administered some 500 vaccines since mid-January.

She has been a regular vaccinator at the NVHD clinic at Seymour Community Center since it first started in mid-January.

“This was a real personal experience,” D’Aversa said. "It felt good, even for us, as nurses. We do not have a lot of that one-on-one. Even here it is only a few minutes, but it is nice to get to know them.”

She said one of the homebound people was a former nurse, and she said it was “interesting to be around someone who had gone through so much, to be able to interact with her, learn about some of her experiences.”

D’Aversa said she vaccinated a couple, in their late 80s, who have been married for 67 years.

“They were not just a number, this was truly a personal experience,” D’Aversa said, adding that those vaccinated were born between the 1920s and 1940s.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com