By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The state’s decision to use mass regional vaccination sites instead of municipalities has Westborough officials feeling “disheartened.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders sent a letter to communities informing them of the decision on Feb. 17. Towns running their own clinics will only be able to administer second doses of the two-part vaccine to people who received the first shots.
Starting March 1, large sites like Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium will remain open for distribution. An exception is made for 20 communities the commonwealth deems as most vulnerable including Boston, Fitchburg and Worcester.
Of the change, Fire Chief Patrick Purcell said, “The carpet was pulled out from under us. It’s disheartening.”
Director of Public Health Steven Baccari said they are trying to move forward. With the help of Northborough Health Agent Kristin Black, Westborough and neighboring communities want to fight to get designated as a regional spot.
However, feedback on that effort is “not promising,” Baccari said.
Town Manager Kristi Williams said the community is not alone in this fight. She has reached out to the legislative delegation and professional associations to advocate for local clinics.
In the meantime, she emphasized that people should not wait for a town clinic. If they have the opportunity to get an appointment elsewhere, Williams said, they should go for it.
Selectman Syed Hashmi spoke about his frustration that seniors with technology and mobility issues are left out of the process. Many cannot drive and wait in long lines and plans were in the works to reach them.
“It’s a travesty,” Hashmi said.
He added that people are experiencing problems trying to sign up online to get appointments at the large facilities.
“Sign up is a separate disaster,” he noted.
Baccari said taxpayers paid for preparedness and the town had plans, equipment and experienced personnel ready that now can’t be used.
“It’s such a waste,” Baccari said.
Taking care of seniors
Selectman Ian Johnson said it is frustrating that people went into prisons to vaccinate, yet can’t go to older people’s homes to do the same.
“Many (elderly) are prisoners in their homes, scared to go out and we can’t vaccinate them. It brings tears to my eyes,” Johnson said. “We want to take care of our citizens. It’s just not right for residents, not fair.”
Selectmen Chair Shelby Marshall said the task force on COVID still meets and advocacy efforts continue. She asked residents to contact the senior center and neighbors for help with rides. She also urged them to reach out to legislators.
“It was a big swing and a miss from the state on this one,” Marshall said.
She joined Purcell and others in thanking all the firefighters, paramedics, Board of Health, etc. for their work.
Residents are encouraged to visit the town website, sign up for CODE RED alerts, call 2-1-1 or see the state’s site https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-vaccination-phases for information.
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