Town leaders, residents, weigh in on new vaccine rollout plan

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LITCHFIELD COUNTY — Washington First Selectman Jim Brinton said he’s in full support of Gov. Ned Lamont’s announcement that people 45 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday and that everyone 16 and older will be eligible on April 5.

“If the supply can meet demand, that’s great,” he said.

However, he said, “if it’s just broadening the group without increased supply, that’s reason for concern.”

“If supplies continue to be an issue, we’re not helping the situation by opening up to a larger segment of the population. If supplies are sufficient, we do have the infrastructure to make it work,” Brinton said.

Brinton praised the New Milford Health Department’s work in scheduling clinics.

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass said, “we appreciate the State ‘s efforts in getting the lower age cohorts to be able to sign to get vaccinated.

However, Bass noted, “We are hopeful that with the increased members of the public allowed to register, we will get increased amounts of vaccine to accommodate.”

“Our goal is to get the vaccines in the arms of New Milford residents as quickly as possible,” he said.

Warren First Selectman Timothy Angevine said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the expanded opportunity.

“This is really exciting but at the same time nerve wracking in that we hope people don’t get frustrated if they cannot make an appointment right away,” he said, adding they should keep trying.

Resident reaction

Local residents have mixed reactions to the governor’s announcement. Litchfield resident Kristen Schipul Orr said Monday the news of the expanded eligibility ‘is so fantastic, I just want to cry.”

Orr said she has 17-year-old twins, juniors at Litchfield High School, and while her daughter chose to do remote schooling since September, her twin brother chose to be in school.

“She has been very stressed by the whole pandemic and was happy to learn she could get vaccinated because she was in food service. Then the guidelines changed and she was devastated. She was hoping to get back to school, in person for her last two months of her junior year,” Orr said. “I think this is a great move on the governor’s part, because I totally see the young people getting infected and spreading it more and more with the days to come.”

Orr added Connecticut is doing a “great job as far as rolling out the vaccine” and said she ‘just hopes and prays” her neighbors will “jump on board.”

Kent resident John Campagna, 55, however, said he doesn’t think vaccine availability should be based only on age. “People who are out there facing the public every day should be a priority,” he said.

He added he’s not too worried about himself since he works from home and limits outdoor activities. He said his parents, who are both in their late 70s, already received both shots.

While he said he signed up for a vaccine, he had no luck finding an appointment within a 100-mile radius.

Cornwall resident Maria Scoville Bonetti, 59, is concerned postal workers are not considered the same as teachers and essential workers when it comes to vaccine priority.

Scoville Bonetti has worked at her local post office since the beginning of the pandemic and said she’s unable to get a vaccine.“I would love to get a COVID shot but everything is spoken for,” she said, adding, “I have been lucky enough to have stayed safe so far.”

Kateland Kelly, a physician assistant administering COVID-19 vaccines at the John Pettibone Community Center in New Milford, said it’s important to all work together towards getting everyone vaccinated.

“At the end of the day, the goal is the same — we want to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, so, if we can make that happen — good,” said Kelly, who is a volunteer on the COVID-19 response team for the town of New Milford.

She encouraged people not to be judgmental about which group gets the vaccine first, and instead, help one another towards the same end.

“We should do better in supporting our seniors and those that have barriers like technology or language barriers, in addition to continuing this acceleration,” she said. “It’s not either-or — it’s both.”

She added , “the best and most important thing we can do is to look after ourselves and our families. So, if you have an elderly family member that you haven’t reached out to, check in on them. See if you can help and act as an advocate for them, and offer to help make the appointment for them. This really is about the importance of community and having patience and helping those around us in our immediate areas.”

With regard to running out of supply of vaccine, Kelly said she’s not concerned.

“Anytime one is dealing with such a large scale distribution on a massive level, it’s going to be difficult no matter how it’s done,” she said.

She added, however, that she feels confident in the efforts on both a state and local level.

“In addition to what we already have on the state level, we will get an additional 200,000 from the federal government the first week of April,” she said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

“We vaccinated about 500 individuals and it was smooth,” she said.