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Staff inside the new mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency began administering doses Monday in Bridgeport, the first of a 60-day effort to reach as many people as possible living in Connecticut’s socially vulnerable neighborhoods and to improve vaccination rates in targeted municipalities.

About 200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were expected to be administered at Beardsley Zoo. The state’s largest city, Bridgeport currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Connecticut. Officials plan to ramp up that amount to about 400 doses a day, ultimately vaccinating about 3,400 people in Bridgeport over the next 10 days as the mobile unit visits five locations, including a public housing community.

Ultimately, the FEMA van is expected to visit 17 different locations in Connecticut over the 60-day period. After Bridgeport, it’s next scheduled to be parked at the New Haven Green. Other communities include Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, Killingly, Meriden, Middletown, New Britain, New London, North Canaan, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford, Waterbury, Windham and Winsted.

Hartford Healthcare, UConn Health, Griffin Health and Trinity Health of New England will provide staffing for the FEMA mobile unit while the Connecticut National Guard and municipal employees will provide non-clinical staffing. The unit is equipped to administer all three FDA-approved vaccines.

U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn. said the state’s congressional delegation, which submitted the grant request application for the mobile unit through a competitive process, plans to seek a second van to come to Connecticut for another 60 days.

Hayes said the van will be able to serve urban communities where there are language barriers as well as rural farming communities where the nearest health care facility is many miles away. At the same time, she predicted it will “help restore confidence” because families will be able to get vaccinated together.

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