New Milford COVID-19 vaccine clinic carries on, sees more patients as other sites close

Photo of Currie Engel
A tub that represents 1,112 vaccinations of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, taken at the John Pettibone Community Center clinic in New Milford

A tub that represents 1,112 vaccinations of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, taken at the John Pettibone Community Center clinic in New Milford

Kateland Kelly / The Write Assistant

NEW MILFORD — As other area COVID-19 clinics and mass vaccination sites start to close, New Milford’s clinic at the John C. Pettibone Community Center is picking up the slack.

“The side effect of there being fewer sites means we have increased foot traffic,” Health Director Lisa Morrissey said Tuesday.

Morrissey said its once-a-week clinics have seen an average of 90 to 150 people during the 90-minute time period, and one clinic even hit between 225 to 240 patients. She estimated that at least half, if not slightly more, of the people attending the clinics have been from places other than New Milford.

“I think we’ve got really good vaccine coverage in New Milford,” Morrissey said.

At the end of May, the clinic, a regional vaccination hub, decided to reduce its offerings for the summer months, altering its three-days-a-week schedule to better meet decreasing demand and give volunteers a much-needed rest.

At its peak, the clinic was administering roughly 1,200 shots on a single Saturday.

Danbury closed its mass vaccination site at the Danbury Fair mall last week, and the local health department shut down its clinic in early June.

Other mass vaccination sites in Middletown and Stamford have closed, as well.

Even without its mass vaccination site, however, Danbury has smaller sites that regularly administer vaccinations, Monday through Saturday, and have been offering pop-ups on various dates at churches, parks and special events. The Community Health Center, which ran the mall site, is offering vaccines at pop-up sites and at its other clinics.

New Milford’s local clinic operates on a regular schedule, offering 90-minute clinics with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Walk-ins are welcome.

While the town’s website has clinic dates posted only through mid-July, Morrissey said she does not plan to discontinue clinics anytime soon, especially heading into another school year and with possible vaccination approval for kids aged 2 to 11 around the corner.

Local health officials continue to strongly encourage vaccinations as the highly transmissible delta variant spreads in Connecticut and the country. As of Friday, July 2, Danbury reported no cases of the new variant, according to Kara Prunty, acting health director. But area doctors and health care workers emphasized the need to continue vaccinations to prevent its spread and protect Connecticut residents from the virus and its effects.

New Milford had reached 66.4 percent of residents who have had at least one shot of the vaccine, according to the latest state data from June 30. This is slightly higher than Danbury’s 60.64 percent and the state’s 63.4 percent of residents who have had at least one shot of the vaccine.

“It’s something that we’re paying attention to,” Morrissey said. “We don’t want to scare people but we’re still saying to remain vigilant.”

The town has partnered with several private and public schools and universities to help vaccinate their student populations ahead of the new school year, she said. With an impending announcement, she said she’s not at liberty to discuss which schools the department will partner with yet.

However, Morrissey said it was “safe to say approval for vaccines for 2-to-11-year-olds is on the horizon.”

If the department faces a heavier load in the fall due to these partnerships and a child vaccine approval, the town may revert back to multi-day clinics each week.

Morrissey said an increasing number of pediatric medical practices in the area have been trying to get vaccination capability. This could relieve some of the pressure on the local health department should younger children get approved.

“I’m anticipating that we’ll be doing this for a while,” Morrissey said of their vaccination clinics.