Darien focuses vaccine resources on school staff as supply issues remain

Hindley School is in full remote learning on Monday, March 1 after a late-reported case of COVID-19 on Sunday required extra time to contact trace.

Hindley School is in full remote learning on Monday, March 1 after a late-reported case of COVID-19 on Sunday required extra time to contact trace.

Hindley School /

DARIEN — Local teachers and schools staff will begin receiving their COVID-19 vaccines this weekend, but a lack of supply following Monday’s eligibility expansion is already causing appointment issues for others looking to get vaccinated in town.

Darien’s town clinic is putting vaccinating the rest of eligible residents on hold until the town’s teachers that want it receive the vaccine. The town has received 660 Moderna vaccine and expects another 200 more of Moderna Monday, according to Darien Health Director David Knauf. Tomorrow, the town expects to receive 200 Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The plan is to get first doses to all teachers and staff this Friday and Saturday — 650 or so have already been scheduled. Then due to vacation and Easter, we will be holding a mega-clinic in the Town Hall gym on Saturday, April 3 for everyone who got their first dose this week,” Knauf said.

Knauf said the town is following the state directive and focusing on getting teachers, and pre-school teachers vaccinated over the next couple of weeks.

“We are not offering vaccine to the public until we finish with teachers and then expect to offer vaccine through VAMS. We are not maintaining a wait list or taking appointments except for anyone over 65,” Knauf said.

Darien has been holding vaccine clinics at the Mather Community Center gymnasium, and First Selectman Jayme Stevenson announced last week that the clinic would be focused on Darien school staff.

In February, Darien received roughly the number of vaccines it has asked for, in the neighborhood of 300 doses.

Town leaders suggested those in the new 55 to 65 age group, estimated to be about 600,000 in the state, should look to other venues for their vaccines, including Grieb’s Pharmacy, whose repeated busy signal Monday was an indicator of how occupied the business was. Residents are also encouraged to register with the state’s Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS.)

Grieb’s Pharmacy manager Tim Harvey said their supply cannot keep up with those trying to make appointments.

“The demand is much higher than the supply, especially with an estimated 600,000 more eligible. We are trying to get more but not enough to keep up with that rate,” Harvey said.

This week, Grieb’s has 300 vaccines to offer, which includes about 200 new Johnson & Johnson vaccines that are expected to arrive Tuesday.

Harvey said the interest in Johnson & Johnson versus Moderna and Pfizer is about half and half. He said some seeking vaccines have expressed a preference for the Johnson & Johnson because of the one dose, while others seem to prefer Moderna and Pfizer due to the higher effectiveness of the two-dose vaccines.

Grieb’s continues to hope they receive more doses.

Veterans of any age already under the medical care of CT’s Department of Veteran Affairs will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the VA announced Monday.

Teachers appear to be eager to get the vaccine acccording to Joslyn DeLancey, the head of Darien’s teachers union and a teacher at Tokeneke School.

“I won’t speak for everyone as I haven’t surveyed, but I will say that I personally will feel more comfortable in the classroom after having both doses of the vaccine,” DeLancey said.

DeLancey said the district has recently had more staff cases.

“Although we can’t always directly link the cases to school exposure, we do think it to be true in some cases,” she said.

DeLancey said a vaccine for teachers and schools staff is “a huge step forward in getting back to some sort of normalcy and consistent in person learning for all.”

“It is exciting for our teachers. They will get a bit of understandable security and comfort. It’s also good for kids in the rest of the state who are currently not in school,” Schools Superintendent Alan Addley said. “I’m so glad the state has now seen teachers as a priority.”

Addley said he intends to be “last on the list,” though he will be eligible. Stevenson said she will also put herself on the end of the list until supply meets demand, so that everyone who needs a vaccine gets one.

“I assure you I will not be in the front of everyone who works in the schools or goes to visit the schools,” Addley said.

Addley said he is glad to see the state has made educators a priority.

“They deserve it,” he said.

School families were notified on Sunday that three community members had tested positive for COVID-19 resulting in 26 additional school community members required to quarantine.

In an email just after 9 p.m. Sunday, Addley said a case at Hindley School will require additional time to complete comprehensive contact tracing and communications requiring Hindley to go remote on Monday.

Monday was to be the day when all Darien students return to in-person learning, with the three remaining grades — sixth, 10th and 11th — back to school.