While many are excited about the vaccine, the rollout in Massachusetts, and specifically Western Mass has a lot of critics. Massachusetts, despite being on the cutting edge of healthcare expertise, has fallen behind states like Connecticut which has administered 73.9% of their vaccine supply compared to Massachusetts’ 68.3% according to Bloomberg. Much of this can be attributed to a complicated and often unrealistic appointment process and lack of vaccination centers in Western Mass. Many students have found themselves waking up early to try to schedule an appointment for their grandparents online, many of whom don’t have a computer or are not technology literate.
Two such students, LHS Junior Adam Low and Williston Junior Frannie Cataldo, have taken to helping other elderly people schedule their appointments. He says, “We noticed our grandparents had trouble scheduling the appointments in general because the sites they have aren’t very easy to use. If they aren’t very skilled with technology it can be extremely difficult for them if not impossible.” Massachusetts has since added the ability to schedule appointments over the phone after receiving a barrage of criticism. “Lots of the people we’ve helped don’t even have a computer,” says Adam.
On Tuesday, Fire Department Chief John Dearborn told the School Committee “I’m completely disappointed with the state and this program. I just need the vaccine and I can get it out to our community.” Chief Dearborn says the town has a robust vaccination plan and over 400 willing volunteers that could vaccinate over 500-1000 people a day if given the vaccine supply. “We know our community, we know who needs the vaccine and how to get it to them, but the state doesn’t seem to get it,” Dearborn says. “Give us the product and we’ll get it done.” Right now Longmeadow is only receiving 100 doses of the vaccine per week.
“I agree with him,” says State Senator Eric Lesser who has been one of the most vocal critics of Governor Charlie Baker’s vaccine rollout plan. He says, “Western Mass needs to receive more vaccines as soon as possible and I’m doing everything I can to advocate for our region.” In videos posted to social media he has called out the Baker administration for the better treatment the Eastern part of Massachusetts has received. “Eastern Mass has access to Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park to get their vaccine administered. People in Springfield are told to go to an abandoned Macy’s,” said one of these videos. It was in part due to his persistence that Massachusetts added appointment scheduling by phone.
Earlier this week, the media reported that seniors seeking vaccination had to stand in the cold for three hours to receive their vaccine. Since then the wait time has improved and more resources have been added for clarity.
On Friday, February 12th, Longmeadow published a press release that the Greenwood Center vaccination clinic would not be receiving the weekly allotment of the Moderna vaccine. Prior to this, Longmeadow was set to receive 100 vaccines per week for the volunteer-run clinic. After much anticipation, the clinic opened the week of February 8th and successfully administered 201 doses to the, “most at-risk citizens of the town.” The press release states, “We watched some of our oldest residents enter Greenwood Center be greeted and assisted upon sign-in, be escorted to a vaccination booth, observed after the vaccination, and then leave the clinic with a second appointment already scheduled.” While the state has guaranteed supply for second dose appointments will be fulfilled, they, “… make no commitment for further first doses going forward.”
Town officials are working hard to advocate on behalf of residents to obtain vaccinations. Everyone hopes that the Greenwood clinic can remain up and running. Many believe that it is most beneficial for towns to administer the vaccine at the local/town level. It is much easier for smaller towns and communities to identify who needs it most and how to most effectively distribute the doses.
Contrary to this theory, the state is targeting bigger chains to distribute vaccinations, such as CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop, and Walmart. Along with the news of the town’s cancelled vaccine supply, it was also announced that, “30 CVS locations would be receiving an additional 12,000 doses of the vaccine.” However, only 3 of these locations are found in Hampden County.