Lisa Barry, with Rescue Inc., gives the second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Cheryl Bauer, of Vernon, during a vaccination clinic that was run by the Vermont Health Department at the Brattleboro VFW on March 15.

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BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Department of Health has been teaming up with VFW Post 1034, Carl Dessaint, on Black Mountain Road in Brattleboro to get vaccinations to local residents.

“The VFW has been providing a huge community resource by allowing us to use their space for free for vaccine distribution,” said Laura Overton, the director of local health services for the Department of Health. “They also provided us space over the summer to set up a COVID-19 testing site.”

“We wouldn’t think of charging for this,” said Sam Haskins, spokesman for the local VFW. “This is very beneficial. What they are doing is for everyone in the community.”

DoH was able to set up at the VFW because it already had an existing “dispensing site agreement” with the local branch.

“The VFW has been one of our partners for a long time,” said Overton, who took over as district manager in October 2019.

“We have memorandums of understanding with certain facilities in the health district,” she said, a precaution the state has taken long before COVID-19 became a global pandemic. “We look for places where we can fit a lot of people safely through, that has lots of parking, is accessible, and is well ventilated.”

When it was time to start offering vaccinations, the VFW opened its doors.

“The people running the VFW are phenomenal,” said Overton. “They have a great community service mission to help the community. It’s been really wonderful working with them.”

Offering vaccinations at the VFW is a small part of the story, she said, with a number of other facilities around the district also coordinating for testing and vaccinations.

Current sites in Windham County include the VFW, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and Grace Cottage. The National Guard has been coordinating pop-up sites for educators and the state also plans to host a clinic for English language users as well as clinics for Black, indigenous and people of color.

According to the state’s online vaccine dashboard, about 24 percent of the residents of Windham County have received their vaccinations. The state’s overall number is about 26 percent.

In addition to the National Guard pop-up sites and the other local vaccine clinics, Kinney Drugs and Walgreen’s are also taking appointments.

At the VFW, the state has conducted five first-dose clinics thus far, she said, vaccinating about 750 people.

“We are currently only doing second doses of the Moderna vaccine at the VFW right now,” said Overton.

When given the go-ahead, they will start offering first doses in the next phase, she said.

“It’s so important for us to have this facility,” she said, “where we can offer both first and second doses at the same place and the same time.”

And at the VFW, they can set up their equipment and leave it, though no vaccine is stored on site.

“We have a very small stuff, shuffling the stuff around is really hard,” she said.

On Thursday, vaccine appointments were opened up to the next phase, Vermonters 16 years and older with a high risk health condition. To register, log on to healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine or call 855-722-7878.

Other eligible people include residents and staff at nursing homes, assisted living communities and other types of group living facilities for older adults, veterans and people with developmental disabilities, school and childcare workers, first responders, 911 operators and corrections officers.

Health care workers who have direct patient contact, including clinical and support staff, emergency services personnel and home health caregivers are also eligible.

Haskins said it’s unclear when the VFW can reopen its doors to its members, but until then, the VFW is hosting public breakfasts on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6 to 10 a.m.

The VFW is not receiving compensation from the state, he said.

The VFW is accepting donations however, he said. They can be sent to VFW Post 1034, care of Lisa Lofting, PO Box 8233, Brattleboro, 05304.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.

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