By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Region – COVID-19 vaccines are coming to the region. But public and private officials say uncertainty remains about when these shots will actually get into the arms of area residents.
On Feb. 5, grocery store chain Price Chopper announced it would offer vaccine doses “based on availability” at six Massachusetts locations, including one in Shrewsbury.
In Northborough, Wegmans grocery store is already offering vaccines out of its pharmacy.
Drugstore chain CVS, meanwhile, has named its Hudson and North Grafton storefronts as two of 30 locations across Massachusetts to receive a limited batch of vaccine doses. Contacted by the Community Advocate, though, Feb. 3, individuals involved in that rollout could not say when exactly those doses would arrive.
“As we all know, there is a limited rollout throughout the State,” Hudson Health Director Kelli Calo wrote in an email. “We look forward to updating the community when we know more information!”
Price Chopper, Wegmans and CVS are three of several companies formally partnered with the federal government in the fight against the coronavirus.
This is an arrangement former President Donald Trump helped outline back in November before the Food and Drug Administration even approved this country’s first vaccine for widespread use.
Now, with new leaders in Washington DC, but the same pandemic raging, doses are finally becoming available outside of hospital settings and mass vaccination sites which still run at Gillette Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park.
Local businesses prepare to offer vaccines
“One of our greatest strengths as a company is our presence in communities across the country, which makes us an ideal partner for administering vaccines in a safe, convenient, and familiar manner,” CVS President and CEO Karen Lynch said in a press release announcing her company’s vaccine operation.
Anyone in phase two of the Massachusetts vaccine schedule will be eligible to book an appointment at any of the locations now operational across the state.
Price Chopper says it plans to unveil scheduling software to actually make that possible, Feb. 7.
At Wegmans, while all vaccine appointments were booked as of Feb. 6, the store website promises that new ones will periodically become available. CVS, meanwhile says appointment slots may open as soon as Feb. 9.
That date, though, is a goal, not a guarantee.
“Right now, there is no update on when they will get the vaccine at the Hudson location,” Calo said, Feb. 4.
CVS Retail Communications officer Matthew Blanchette echoed that message in his own email to the Community Advocate.
Local and state officials press for more vaccines as well as transparency
In such a dire situation, outrage has spread as health care workers, elderly community members and others currently eligible for the vaccine have struggled to actually find doses. Some towns such as Northborough have received doses but not nearly as much as they need. In other towns, such as Westborough and Shrewsbury, officials have been left frustrated that they had not received any for its general senior population yet.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who represents Hudson, recently recognized some of that emotion as he led a coalition of state legislators criticizing failures in vaccine rollouts and demanding more transparency from Gov. Charlie Baker.
“By increasing transparency on [the] number of doses available in the state and the process through which they are distributed, and creating greater accessibility to appointments, much of the tension we are experiencing can be relieved,” he wrote, this month, announcing an open letter he and 31 State House colleagues sent Baker.
Those interested in getting a vaccine can visit the state vaccine rollout website, for more or call the new dedicated call center set up by the state. To access, dial 2–1–1 and select the prompt for “Help Scheduling a Vaccine Appointment.”