Officials note ‘infrastructure, volunteers in place…but we need more vaccines’
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – Ever since the news broke in late December that a desperately needed COVID-19 vaccine was approved, municipalities have been scrambling to put an infrastructure in place to help their residents receive a dose. Those effort have been hampered at times by a lack of communication from both the federal and state governments. But in Northborough, officials committed to working together have put together a model that aims to make it as easy as possible, especially for its 1,300-plus seniors, to receive this critical vaccine.
‘Incredible team effort’
The first clinic was held Feb. 5 for 100 residents age 75 and older at the Senior Center. Overseeing the efforts were Fire Chief David Parenti, Health Agent Kristin Black, Ph.D., M.S., and Senior Center Director Liz Tretiak, although as the three noted, dozens of others were as integral to the success of the process as well.
“It really has been an incredible team effort,” Parenti said, “from the Town Manager’s office, IT, security, transportation, outreach and of course the volunteers here giving of their time.”
Once the town knew it had procured an allotment of vaccines, residents could sign up via an online portal on the town’s website. The 100 spots available filled up in 45 minutes, Black said.
Knowing that not all residents have access to the internet, Tretiak’s office is ensuring that eligible seniors do not get left behind. As such, she worked with Town Clerk Andy Dowd’s office to cull out names from the town census of those who were 75 and over. If a resident had not signed up online, her office reached out to the resident to let them know about the clinic.
“Word of mouth was also so important,” she added. “Neighbors reached out and helped others to let them know of the clinic and how to sign up.”
And for those who needed transportation, the senior center’s vans offered door to door service.
Once inside the center, residents were guided through the process, smoothly and efficiently, from checking in, to receiving their vaccine, to setting up for their second appointment while they were monitored for the requisite 15 minutes after their shot.
Paramedic/Firefighter Patrick McManus was in charge of allotting the correct amount of vaccine into syringes before they were distributed to each vaccination station.
A paramedic vaccinator and a nurse were stationed in rooms that had partitions for privacy as they met with residents.
“We also have a health room, stretcher and ambulance on standby,” Parente said, “just in case someone needs medical attention.”
Claire Swan was one resident who got her vaccine Feb. 5.
“I believe it’s important to be able to get this immunization,” she said. “And to be able to do so, really close to home is wonderful. It’s the ideal place.”
“This has all been so well done,” she praised.
Infrastructure and volunteers in place as town awaits more vaccines
As efficient as the process was, there was frustration, the officials noted, with both the lack of vaccines received and the communication on when more would be arriving.
“We have the infrastructure in place, we have more volunteers than we can use right now,” Black said. “We could actually do up to 600 a day but we need more vaccines.”
State representatives Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough) and Meg Kilcoyne (D-Clinton). who were on hand to observe the first clinic, promised they would advocate for the town.
“You are doing a great job here,” Kilcoyne said. “And we hear you regarding what you need.”
The town is planning on holding clinics for seniors 75 and up over the next three weeks. Officials are cautiously optimistic they will get those vaccines as well as enough to give residents their second shots.
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