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Nation’s First FEMA Mobile Vaccine Unit Arrives in State

March 29, 2021

In the latest response to COVID-19, city, state and federal officials gathered at Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport Monday to launch a large-scale mobile vaccination program aimed at reaching Connecticut’s most underserved communities.

In conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Hartford HealthCare is spearheading the nation’s first program using FEMA’s special vaccination vehicles.

“This is a great for the country, for the state of Connecticut, for the city of Bridgeport,” says Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks. “In this critical moment, there is a race that is occurring. The race is to get this vaccine to as many residents in our state, to as many people, to as many human being’s arms as quickly and as safely as we possibly can.”

The race is heating up, as the state Department of Public Health Monday issued an alert asking residents to continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing because coronavirus rates are creeping up again and Connecticut.

That’s why the FEMA program is so important – it reaches the state’s underserved communities, including cities where the pandemic continues to hit hard with higher infection and mortality rates.

Bridgeport City Council President Aidee Nieves says this program can help fix the health inequities seen across the state’s poorer neighborhoods.

“It speaks to the need that healthcare and accessibility go hand in hand, especially when we try to normalize our lives,” she says. “We are the first communities that were strongly impacted through jobs and economic impact for our families. This is another tool to get our people vaccinated and live healthy lifestyles.”

Officials were quick to dismiss the notion that residents in poorer, urban communities were reluctant to get the vaccine. Monday’s event was proof of that, with a long line of people on hand to get vaccinated.

“There is a lot of talk about hesitancy in communities of color,” says U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “There’s no hesitancy, resistance, or reluctance that can’t be overcome. It’s a problem of access. It’s a problem of ample opportunity. That’s the reason why the death rate in communities of color is double, and why communities of color have received only half that others have. This van is equity in action.”

Over the next 10 days, the FEMA mobile unit will move to four additional locations across Bridgeport.  The vehicle will be set up in residential areas, hoping to inoculate 3,400 residents with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who were waiting in line say the combination of the site and the type of vaccine played a big role in them looking to get the shot.

“We are here because it’s Johnson & Johnson,” says Bridgeport resident Sherrell Jones. “One dose. One shot and you get it over with. Plus, the mobile (trailer) is what made me come out. I don’t have to go in a hospital. I am outside.  It’s easier to be outside, and have it come to our neighborhood.”

Once the van leaves Bridgeport, it will head next to New Haven before continuing across the state. Gov. Ned Lamont says that while the COVID rate is increasing again, this program will help prevent it from getting out of hand in Connecticut.

“We are making sure the vaccine is safe, and it is safe when you come,” he says. “That’s what it means when we say we are going to bring the vaccine to you and make it easier and possible for each and every one of you. We are going to make sure nobody is left behind. Everyone who wants, gets that opportunity. This is a race. It’s a race we are winning in Connecticut. We are going to win in America, we are going to win everywhere,” Lamont says. “We have no alternative.”