As the town turned its focus this week to vaccinating New Canaan Public Schools educators following a state directive, residents 55-and-older who also became eligible for vaccine shots March 1 have been forcefully lodging complaints, according to the municipal health director.
School faculty and staff members were “crying tears of joy” Wednesday during the clinic at Lapham Community Center at what Jenn Eielson called “by far the best clinic we have ever had.”
Even so, “This week has been awful for me,” Eielson said during a regular meeting of the Health & Human Services Commission, held Thursday morning via videoconference.
“I’ve been beaten up beyond belief, because we are not doing the 55-and-over,” she said. “We have been getting screamed at every single day. So yesterday was a welcome relief of people that were actually happy. So grateful. And you know [Superintendent of Schools Dr.] Bryan [Luizzi] is just fantastic. I absolutely love working with Bryan. He brought balloons and I brought bracelets for them. And we had stickers and he had music playing, so it was a real celebration that they can see that finally it’s here, It was just wonderful. They all followed directions. They came at their exact time. They brought their forms. So it was literally fastest, smoothest we’ve ever had. It was just a dream.”
The comments came during Eielson’s regular update to the Commission. Those in attendance include Chair Dr. Harrison Pierce, Secretary Alyssa MacKenzie and Commissioners Tom Ferguson, Jim Lisher, Lance Minor, Russ Barksdale Jr., Alicia Meyer and Jennifer Hladick.
Citing Gov. Ned Lamont’s Luizzi noted at a Board of Education meeting Monday that the state made all pre-K-through-12th-grade staff and teachers, as well as professional childcare providers, eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine in March. At the same time, age-based eligibility as of March 1 came to include those 55-and-older, by Lamont’s order.
Luizzi said that all NCPS staff members would be vaccinated within about two-and-a-half weeks.
Wednesday’s first-dose clinic saw 350 vaccinated, Eielson said, and there were “no issues whatsoever.”
“Today [Thursday] we have a second dose clinic and then the 100 daycare workers coming in for the [Johnson & Johnson] shot,” she said. “So to date we have done over 1,700 first doses and we’ve done 200 second doses, 200 more today so it’ll be 400. And our 75-and-over population, 92.82% have been vaccinated with their first dose. Of the 65-and-over population, 70.77% have been vaccinated. So we have very good numbers going. Obviously when we can get back to the 55-and-over, once we are done with all the educators, after March, we are hoping to work on that number. But for now we are working with all the schools, that’s the public schools, that’s the private schools and all the daycares and anything associated with childcare, so that is where we’re at. So far so good.”
Ferguson said he hoped that Eielson hasn’t been “beaten up too bad.”
“But on behalf of me and I suspect all the commissioners, we salute you and the whole team,” he said. “And we do not want to beat you up. We want to commend you and celebrate.”
Pierce noted that members of the Town Council this week praised the New Canaan Health Department staff and volunteers for their effective work in operating Lapham Community Center as a vaccination clinic.