As Massachusetts enters into Phase 2 of vaccine distribution, town officials are working tirelessly to create a clinic to inoculate eligible Longmeadow residents as soon as possible. This past Wednesday, February 3rd, Longmeadow received 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine which will be used to vaccinate the first group of clinic volunteers. A town press release stated: “individuals aged 75 years and older will be prioritized first in Phase 2, followed by individuals 65 years and older, and individuals with 2+ comorbidities (only those conditions listed as at increased risk for severe illness).” “Phase 3,” is projected to begin around April- June, when the vaccine will become available to the general public.
Longmeadow will hold it’s clinic at the Greenwood Center and the town is hoping to begin vaccinations the week of February 15th. Of course, there are many moving parts and no dates are set in stone. “A lot of our scheduling relies on when the vaccine supply is delivered to the town,” said Fire Department Chief John Dearborn. “When it does open, it will be limited to those 75 and older,” (who are at a higher risk of hospitalization and death from the coronavirus).
The Longmeadow clinic will be overseen by the Longmeadow Emergency Management Department and the Longmeadow Health Department, along with the Vaccine Coordinator and coordination team. Appointments will need to be made on the Massachusetts state website. Longmeadow will receive the Moderna vaccine. Only those 18 years and older are eligible for the Moderna vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is approved for those 16 and older). “It will likely be a few months of more clinical trials and research before it will be safe to vaccinate younger children and teenagers,” Chief Dearborn estimates.
So far, healthcare workers such as Longmeadow High School nurse, Sara Jasak, have already received vaccinations. Nurse Jasak received her first vaccination at the beginning of January and is due for her second in a few days. She recalled, “I had no reactions at all. I felt completely fine minus a sore arm for a day.” Additionally, she shared how she is feeling now that she has received the vaccine: “I feel thankful to have been able to get my vaccine and hope that by being vaccinated it brings us one person closer to getting back to some sort of normalcy.”
A lot of teachers feel similarly about getting vaccinated. Math teacher Mrs. Carol Daigle explained, “I’ll still wear a mask and social distance, but it won’t be as scary to leave the house anymore.” She mentioned her hope for the future, and how ideally the more people that are vaccinated, the better off we will be as a community because fewer people will be at risk.
Although many people are optimistic about being vaccinated, others are still skeptical about the long term effects of a relatively new technology. LHS biology teacher, Ms. Julia Fournier-Rea shared her thoughts on the vaccine from a scientific perspective. She explained the data shows the vaccine to be safe, saying “[Firstly] the science wasn’t rushed; most of the reason vaccines usually take a long time is funding and bureaucracy. [Secondly] mRNA vaccines have been in the works for a while, but none have come to market before, in part because we didn’t have the biotechnology capability that we have now. [And lastly,] mRNA is not able to stick around in our cells or change our DNA. She is also excited about the other “potential positive research applications for this kind of vaccine.” Ms. Fournier-Rae said she is, “so excited to get [her] vaccine,” and expressed hope for the future. “It is such an accomplishment of these researchers to be able to work so fast and get these shots into people’s arms. Personally, I’m finding so much joy in watching my friends and family get vaccinated on social media.”
It has been a long journey recovering from the pandemic, and it’s not over yet. So many people have suffered illness and lost loved ones. And there is still much to do before we can return to how our lives pre-COVID-19. However, there is a lot to be optimistic about as the vaccination process moves ahead in the US and internationally.