Vaccination Appointments Open for CT Educators
Updated: May 3
Little can encapsulate the feeling of relief brought about by news of vaccinations—a substantial stride forward amid the strife we call COVID-19.
Though he initially considered a graduated system for vaccination (in which vaccinations would be doled out with primary consideration for age and other factors), in February, Governor Ned Lamont announced vaccination appointments would be available for all Connecticut educators starting March 1, and that all teachers would be given a two-day window exclusively for them to apply.
Teachers would be guided through the Yale New Haven Health vaccination portal, in which they would schedule their appointments at various locations offered throughout Connecticut. In collaborating with the hospital administration, Superintendent Toni Jones hoped to make the vaccination process as convenient as possible for faculty.
For the faculty members and school employees that have put their health on the line to foster an environment as conducive to learning as possible in what some may consider the most dystopian of times, the vaccine is quite a momentous means to an end.
While some teachers, such as Ms. Kathleen Steiner, Greenwich High School’s wellness teacher, did not feel as immediately threatened by the virus, a few teachers, such as Ms. Kristin Wilhelm, an honors pre-calculus teacher, have been doing online instruction from home since the beginning of the year.
Ms. Laura Jean Waters, one of the school’s media specialists, expressed her gradual comfort as she returned to school, explaining that, although the hybrid plan was “really hard for teachers and students” in some ways, it was ultimately “effective in making the building feel safe.” Steiner agreed, commending Jones for the sophisticated system of COVID-19 procedures and contact tracing that has been implemented.
Vaccination, though, would offer Waters another means of protection, allowing her to more safely help students in her proximity. The vaccine would also allow Wilhelm to safely return to in-person teaching in the near future.
The registration process looked different for each teacher.
Waters revealed that the process, for her, was “a little bit of an adventure”; scheduling the appointment required a few steps back before she could take a few steps forward. Waters had accrued some familiarity with the online VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) portal when assisting her parents through the registration process but found that Greenwich Public Schools had resorted to quite a different system for scheduling.
At midday on Feb. 28, an email was sent providing teachers with directions and a link. According to Wilhelm, many teachers attempted to click and register immediately, but their medical data could not be uploaded to the Yale New Haven portal until midnight. In the meantime, teachers could have set up a ''MyCharts'' account, something Waters wishes she had done to expedite the sign-up process and circumvent repeated prompts for her insurance information.
So, intent on securing a spot, Waters remained awake until midnight, and Wilhelm woke up at 12:01 a.m. However, the immense website traffic at that time due to swarms of educators eager to snag appointments prevented many from registering immediately. So, Waters instead resolved to wake at 5 a.m., allowing her to schedule an appointment at a university in her living vicinity.
Meanwhile, Wilhelm remained persistent; she got—and ignored—“a message saying the website is too busy, try again in thirty minutes.” She refreshed at increments of two minutes, and, finally, a list of appointments appeared. Wilhelm shared her successful tactic saying, “I did not give up right away, and I got an appointment.”
The rush for appointments was akin to crowds on Black Friday; though about 5,000 appointments were added the next morning, all of them were taken within the hour.
Despite these initial hurdles, the process did not seem too exhausting for some. It is not a difficult process to navigate, Steiner said; in her opinion, the email from the school’s superintendent guided her seamlessly through the registration. Wilhelm agreed, claiming “it was easier than what the VAMS system was,” especially since she previously held an account at Yale New Haven.
However, Wilhelm and Steiner faced an inconvenience that many vaccine registrees across the U.S. may inevitably face: the shortage of available locations in their vicinity.
In “Northern Connecticut there were many appointments, but not at Brunswick, which is where I want to go… so I have to keep checking back to that website,” said Steiner.
Wilhelm said, “I couldn’t get anything at the Brunswick Field House, in Greenwich, because that was like three weeks out, and I didn’t want to wait that long.”
Wilhelm also wishes that, like other districts (such as Stamford), Greenwich would offer on-site vaccinations, meaning teachers would be able to receive their vaccinations at their respective schools.
So, at the end of the day, registering required quite a bit of compromise and patience for many.
Regardless, these individuals could all agree on the merit of COVID-19 vaccinations and are optimistic of its utility in the near future.
Though immense progress has been made in combatting the virus, it is crucial to not forget the personal sacrifices teachers and school employees have made to keep Greenwich High School functioning and the student body learning.
How truly effective these vaccines are, only time would tell, but take solace in the fact that we are one gigantic step closer to restoring normalcy.