'Vaccine frenzy': Greenwich leaders discuss rollout, debunk myths, urge sign-ups

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GREENWICH — Connecticut is in the middle of a “vaccine frenzy,” at least according to Greenwich Senior Center leaders and Greenwich Commission on Aging directors.

Mixed messages during the pandemic have caused fear, confusion and uncertainty for many and personal health and safety have been politicized — whether someone wears a mask, practices social distancing, gets the vaccine or even admits that the virus exists — which is compounding all the frenzy, town leaders said on Tuesday morning.

“Hopefully, we can turn that around,” said Stephanie Paulmeno, a Greenwich contact tracer and president of the Connecticut Nurses Association, recently hired by the Greenwich Department of Health to educate residents on COVID-19 and other related issues.

With the rollout of Phase 1b, which includes vaccines for people aged 75 and older, Greenwich Commission on Aging leaders said they felt it was “incredible and timely” for Paulmeno to lead a presentation about the coronavirus vaccine and vaccine hesitancy while providing additional background information about who will be prioritized in the current phase.

Vaccine hesitancy describes those who wish not to receive the vaccine, are afraid to receive it or have misunderstandings about getting the jab, Paulmeno said.

For the coronavirus rollout, health officials are using television and other forms of communication to persuade those skeptical — oftentimes people of color — to get the vaccine.

Many health care workers of color are receiving their coronavirus vaccines on television and states, including Connecticut, have people of color running their vaccine advisory groups, which is important, Paulmeno said.

“The unfortunate thing is, not only are these people distrusting of getting the vaccine, but they’re also the very people who are more likely to contract the disease — and when they contract it — they’re far more likely to become seriously ill or to die from it,” she stated. “So, there’s a lot riding on our being able to overturn vaccine hesitancy with facts.”

The new COVID-19 vaccines do not change the DNA of an individual and they do not cause a vaccinated person to get the coronavirus, which are common myths, Paulmeno said.

She’s encouraging almost all to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines if they’re eligible. Women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to decide whether it’s safe to receive the vaccine, with the help of their physician. People with allergies are encouraged to stay at their vaccination site for at least 15 minutes to ensure they do not experience an allergic reaction while alone. Side effects from the vaccine include pain, redness or swelling at the injection side, or an elevated temperature, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, chills without a fever, joint pain, and for a small number, an allergic reaction.

“But I think any one of us would agree that those minor symptoms are a heck of a lot better than being in (an) ICU unit,” Paulmeno said.

The federal government allocated vaccines to states based their population. As of Jan. 8, Connecticut has distributed 53 percent of the 219,125 doses that it had received. Around 50,000 more doses are expected this week, according to Gov. Ned Lamont, as a reward for getting the program off to a good start in the state.

The problem with that is: “Only 45,000 doses per week are what we’re going to be getting. But we have 1.4 million to vaccinate in Phase 1b — and all will need 2 doses,” Paulmeno added.

During Phase 1b, anyone aged 75 and older is a top priority and are being vaccinated currently. Those who fall between 65 to 74 are likely to become eligible to schedule a vaccine in early February. All others in Phase 1b will be phased-in during late February or early March.

There is no information yet detailing Phase 1c. “But it will be coming soon,” Paulmeno said.

Greenwich Hospital will begin registering eligible people for the vaccine at 500 W. Putnam Ave. beginning next week with an online appointment.

The Greenwich Health Department is also setting up clinics the last week of January, staffed by their own employees, Greenwich Emergency Medical Service workers and Greenwich Medical Reserve Corps members.

Those interested and eligible for the vaccine can call the Yale New Haven Health COVID-19 hotline to register at 1-833-275-9644.

The Vaccine Administration Management System also has a phone line for those individuals and will take calls from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday-through-Friday at 1-877-918-2224.

The Greenwich Commission on Aging has also released a phone number to address calls for help at 203- 862-6710.

For more information, or to register for a vaccine online, visit ct.gov/covidvaccine.

tatiana.flowers@thehour.com @TATIANADFLOWERS