Confusion, delays as Marlborough COVID-19 vaccination site awaits state approval 

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By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

The Courtyard Marriott stands in Marlborough with minimal signage denoting the planned COVID-19 vaccination site on its property. (Photo by/Vicki Greene)

Marlborough – Plans to open a “mini-mega” coronavirus vaccination site at Marlborough’s Courtyard Marriott stalled just steps from the proverbial finish line, this week. 

After they initially said this facility might open March 1, city officials and local health care workers are stuck in limbo as a result of these delays. They have set up everything they need to start delivering a high volume of vaccines. But, as of March 4, they still didn’t have all the doses they initially thought they would get. 

“We really can’t promote it before we know that we have [those doses],” Mayoral Aide Patricia Bernard wrote in an email to the Community Advocate, Feb. 25.

Imperfect statewide vaccine rollout

February marked a consequential month in Massachusetts’ effort to vaccinate against the coronavirus. Visualization of data compiled by the state itself as well as the private group, Our Wold in Data, helps show the recent rate of immunizations over recent weeks. (Graphic by/Dakota Antelman)

Massachusetts started vaccinating residents in December of last year. As of March 1, roughly 550,000 people had received their required shots.

For all those doses, though, technical errors and accessibility issues have dogged the vaccine rollout.

Particularly frustrated by a recent move from Gov. Charlie Baker to restrict dose allocation primarily to a handful of large mega-sites, Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant offered good news to the City Council, Feb. 22 — his staff had worked through much of the previous weekend to bring one such hub to town. 

“We’re excited,” Vigeant said at the time. “We want to get as many vaccines in arms as we can.”

On Feb. 22, Vigeant said he expected Marlborough’s new site would open March 1. Marlborough was expecting an allocation of 750 daily vaccine doses. It just needed that approval finalized at the state level. 

That approval didn’t come. 

Expectations, then delays in Marlborough site approval

On Feb. 24, a new mega site opened at a Circuit City in Dartmouth, Mass.. The Commonwealth announced other vaccine locations. But it left Marlborough off its list. 

Initially, officials remained optimistic in emails and phone calls with the Community Advocate.

Those initial sites were bigger than Marlborough’s proposal, Bernard said. The city was expecting to still get its approval by Friday, Feb. 26.

She reiterated the same point, the next day.

“I believe the state is waiting to be sure that they can allocate 750 doses [per day] to us,” she said. 

Friday came and went without approval, however. March 1 then arrived without expected local doses available. As workers set up signage advertising their clinic, they kept casting their eyes towards Boston waiting for the vaccine.   

“Our Board of Health and [the staff at] Marlborough Hospital are ready to go at the Marriott Courtyard when we get word that we can expect a vaccine,” Bernard wrote, March 2.

Some shots take place as full clinic effort remains stalled

Signs mark where a limited COVID-19 vaccination operation is ongoing in Marlborough. The city is waiting on state approval to greatly expand its operation. (Photo by/Vicki Greene)

Amid all the confusion, conversation spread online this week that doses had, in fact, already arrived at this new site. Contacted once more, early March 4, Bernard confirmed that was still not the case.

There has been a limited rollout of appointments for people who already have their first doses of the vaccine. But the Marriot site is still not booking anyone who needs their first shot. In effect, UMass Memorial has just moved its preexisting vaccination operation to the Marriott.

“It’s very limited,” Bernard said, March 4.

Marlborough still eyes clinic opening

The push for vaccinations rolls forward. 

City officials, after all, want their doses as Marlborough continues to heal following brutal surges of COVID-19 over the last year. 

4,212 Marlborough residents have tested positive. 113 people have died. 

“We are still waiting on official approval,” Bernard wrote in one recent email to the Community Advocate. “I do not have any further info at this time.” 

Find out if you’re eligible for a vaccination via the state’s VaxFinder website

Additional reporting by Dakota Antelman