by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – Northern Counties Health Care (NCHC) is partnering with St. Johnsbury-based Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) to begin offering vaccinations on February 24 and 26 at the Hardwick Fire Station, according to NCHC Chief Strategy Officer Christopher Towne.
Towne said the plan is to create a stationary site in St. Johnsbury and having mobile, twice-weekly vaccination clinics throughout the NEK, though the still-difficult supply chain could impact that strategy.
Those eligible for getting a vaccination can register with Vermont Department of Health; appointment availability is subject to state-set eligibility criteria. Appointments can be scheduled at healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/getting-covid-19-vaccine. Towne said that approximately 250 slots are still open for the two currently scheduled days.
Towne said the clinics are a response to a state Request for Proposal (RFP) for vaccination clinics, which NCHC and NVRH responded to. The state will determine where the mobile clinics go based on factors such as the percentage of population vaccinated and the Governor’s stated goal of having availability within thirty minutes of every Vermonter. While Towne said it seemed that supply issues were improving, they continue to be a potential limiting factor in the program’s scope and reach. Assuming that situation does continue to improve, he said the clinic in St. Johnsbury could process 1,500 doses a week and the mobile clinic 300. Towne said, “we have some ability to scale that if needed, but that’s initially what the proposal was.”
The state makes the call as to which vaccine will be deployed; at this time, Towne said that the Moderna vaccine is planned for Hardwick. In the expanded vaccination bid, he said that a “combination of staffing models” is being used, leveraging NVRH to hire “some dedicated staff that were interested in helping vaccinate the community.”
Towne said that a COVID testing program in Hardwick has been very successful and that the town’s support had been invaluable.
“Shaun Fielder, the support of the select board in the town, the Fire Department, and Chief Tom Fadden, they have all been super supportive in working behind the scenes to make sure goes smoothly for us. The response of the community has been really great. People are really appreciative of being able to have quick convenient access to testing four days a week in the Hardwick area, in addition to the testing that we are doing at the health center.”
Towne said that 1,341 COVID tests had been conducted at the Hardwick Fire Station from the test site’s opening day on December 5 through January 31.
Of the 250 available slots for vaccination, 150 are on February 24 and 100 on February 26, and thus far 56 people had signed up.
As of Monday, the state said that 10.7% of Vermonters over 16 had received vaccinations. Caledonia and Orleans counties have vaccinated a slightly lower proportion of their residents, with 2,365 people (9.5%) and 2,072 (9.2%), respectively.