Instead, the state is placing priority on providing vaccines to mass-vaccination sites and regional clinics. A growing number of pharmacies and other retail locations are now administering vaccines as well.
However, the state has committed to providing second-vaccine doses for individuals who already received their first dose through a Hull or other South Shore municipal clinic.
This news was announced by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration recently after a number of local communities, including Hull, put great effort into setting up local clinics to vaccinate residents.
“After committing to the state that we’re we in to administer vaccines for the long run, through Phase 3, the rules were changed partway through the process, which doesn’t sit well with residents,” Sullivan said. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from those who received the vaccine at our town clinics. They have been very successful, with social distancing in place.”
Sullivan noted that the Board of Health is well qualified and prepared, through various training, to continue administering the vaccine to Hull residents.
Both she and public health nurse Joan Taverna are trained to administer the vaccine. In addition, some local nurses and doctors have volunteered to help with this task.
Through occasional home visits, a clinic run in cooperation with Manet Community Health Center at Hull High School last week to administer first doses to residents age 75 and over and another at the Mary Jeannette Murray Bath House, and an upcoming clinic Saturday at the bath house to administer second doses to residents in that same age category, Sullivan said she and her staff are continuing to do all in their power to meet the needs of Hull residents.
“Those who received a first dose were notified of the clinic on Saturday,” she noted. “The slots are filling up.”
School Superintendent Judith Kuehn, pleased at the opportunity to open up the high school as a vaccination center last week, said, “We’ve been working with infectious disease doctors at Manet,” she said, to provide opportunities for residents, teachers, and staff to get vaccinated. “We’d be happy to open up the building to the community again to help out Hull citizens.”
A major concern, Sullivan said, is Hull’s number of vulnerable residents who, because of health, lack of transportation, or other issues, are unable to make the trek to Gillette Stadium or Fenway Park to get a vaccine.
The announcement that the state will no longer be providing first-dose vaccines to municipal clinics, including Hull, means that residents will not be able to schedule additional first-dose vaccination appointments with clinics run by the Hull Board of Health, unless the situation changes.
“I’m hoping to do more home visits, including to the Hull Housing Authority-run Atlantic House Court across from Town Hall, contingent on the town receiving more of the vaccine from the state,” Sullivan said.
She praised the efforts of Hull paramedics, who have helped out at the local clinics, saying, “They’ve been present at all of them.”
Fire Chief Chris Russo in turn expressed appreciation for the efforts by the Board of Health.
“The board has been outstanding during this pandemic with COVID-ill residents, performing contact tracing and currently, vaccinations,” he said. “The members of HFD have been exceptional as well, especially during the early days of COVID-19 when there were so many unknowns. They responded to members of the community who were sick with tremendous empathy and played a vital role in our planned response as essential workers.”
HFD members also helped with testing and monitoring of the air quality in the Hull Public Schools, “which added yet another layer of quality assurance and contributed to a safer environment for the teachers and students,” Russo said.
He also expressed appreciation for the collaboration between town agencies and the school department during these challenging times and for Manet’s efforts. “These groups worked seamlessly together.”
Sen. Patrick O’Connor told The Hull Times that there is “a tremendous push” on Beacon Hill to get more vaccines to local communities. “I’ve also talked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to [advocate for] South Shore communities receiving the vaccines they need and deserve.”
In the meantime, in response to O’Connor’s offer to help individuals secure vaccination appointments and for them to reach out to his office if in need of assistance, more than 90 people had either emailed or called his office as of Wednesday morning. Most of their needs have already been accommodated.
O’Connor’s staff and a group of volunteers have been making appointments for constituents at Gillette Stadium upon request “for those who are able to make it there. It’s quite a process,” he said. “The stadium has the most available appointments.”
O’Connor also noted that along with communities that have received second doses, some local medical provider networks are also offering vaccinations.
“The hope is that once second doses have been administered, local communities who have administered first and second doses will be put back on track to receive more first doses,” he said. “The infrastructure for administering vaccinations is already in place in many South Shore towns. The goal is to put the vaccine in the communities, where it belongs.”
O’Connor was among 11 state senators and more than 30 state representatives who signed a Feb. 18 letter to Baker expressing concerns with the decision to stop the provision of first-dose vaccines to municipalities.
“This decision will jeopardize the ability of our seniors to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations,” the letter reads in part. It also states that many seniors are uncomfortable going to mass-vaccination sites, especially when they are a distance from their homes, and that many prefer to schedule vaccine appointments through local resources.
The legislators are also asking the Baker administration to “reconsider the decision to limit the capabilities of these local operations.”
The Times was unable to reach Rep. Joan Meschino, of Hull, before it went to press this week.
Sullivan and her team will continue to keep residents informed of future second-dose clinics as additional vaccines are available.
Due to the high demand for appointments and the limited vaccine supply, it could take more than a month for all eligible individuals to be able to book an appointment.
The state’s Vaccine Finder website (vaxfinder.mass.gov) allows residents to search for vaccine sites and to schedule appointments.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also announced recently that vaccine appointments are available at CVS pharmacies across the state through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Visit www.cvs.com to schedule an appointment.