Families pack clinic as young children become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine


By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Families pack clinic as young children become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
Boylston firefighter Bill Weir gives Freddy Rizkallah his COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – When Diane Gage came to help vaccinate children at a clinic at Melican Middle School, one of the children waiting was wearing a sign asking for Gage to give her the shot. 

“It meant the world to me,” said Gage, who is a nurse at Proctor Elementary School. 

That student was one of the nearly 900 children who were vaccinated in a two-day clinic for individuals ages 5 through 11 held at Melican on Nov. 5 and 6. 

Rushmie Nofsinger’s daughter was another one of those children who got the shot. The vaccination was easy, she said, as her children then colored while waiting for the following observation period to wind down.

“We believe in the science,” Nofsinger said. “We think it’s important from a public health perspective and for the safety of our children.”

Northborough Health Agent Kristin Black told the Community Advocate the health department had been planning clinics for some time. A clinic for the 5- to 11-year-olds was the logical next step, Black said, as those age groups became eligible for the vaccine. Appointments for these clinics were filled within 48 hours, Black said.

“We’ve all been through a lot,” she continued. “A lot of people have had their lives interrupted through periods where they’ve had to quarantine from an exposure at school or sports. Children are missing out.”

When people are fully vaccinated, if they’re exposed to COVID-19, Black noted, they don’t have to quarantine or participate in programs like ongoing test-and-stay regimes at schools.

Students can stay in school while also decreasing demand on school nurses who are contact tracing. Vaccines in young people can further prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the community, Black said.

While children fare better compared to adults when it comes to COVID-19 infections, Black noted that some have died around the country since the pandemic began. Children can also spread the virus to others, she said.

“We’re really passionate because I want those kids to have that level of immunity as they gear into the holiday season and are with loved ones,” Black said. “I think it’s really important that we do everything we can.”

“We’re ready for COVID to be over, and this is such a big step and a big opportunity,” she added.

Vaccinations by the numbers

Families pack clinic as young children become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
Celeste Kopech prepares COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

The Health Department has partnered with other town departments and members of the Greater Boroughs Partnership for Health in its efforts.

During a Nov. 8 Board of Selectmen meeting, Black reported that a total of 876 vaccines were administered over the preceding weekend.

“Thanks for reacting so quickly to offer the vaccinations this weekend,” said Selectman Scott Rogers, referencing the recent green light from federal regulators to let young children receive the vaccine

Each clinic on Nov. 5 and 6 featured 35 staff members. Black said that 75 percent of the staff were community volunteers and members of the local medical reserve corps. 

“We had doctors, nurses, dentists, you name it, who really came out and supported our community through this clinic,” Black said. “And [I] just can’t extend how grateful I am to all of them for making this possible for our families only three or four days after the approval, giving our kids the opportunity to receive the vaccine in town.” 

The clinics were advertised using flyers, which went home in Northborough Public Schools students’ backpacks.

Staff also reached out to local private schools and sent emails to families who registered for notifications. 

Of the 876 vaccines administered, 448 were given to Northborough children, 189 went to Southborough children and several more went to individuals who live in nearby communities including Boylston, Shrewsbury, Hopkinton, Grafton and Westborough. 

“It was just great to get this many kids vaccinated in our overall community as well,” Black said.

“At this point, I hope the immediate need was met,” Black added in comments to the Community Advocate.

Northborough COVID-19 cases

Families pack clinic as young children become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
Erin Shanahan prepares COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

Black said she hasn’t seen a feared surge of COVID-19 cases from Halloween that staff had been bracing for. 

Instead, as of that selectmen’s meeting, Black said, there were 16 active cases in Northborough. 

There had been 78 positive cases in town over the previous month, marking a decline from 121 in the month before that. 

Outside of Northborough, the larger vaccine rollout continues as public health experts are encouraging those eligible for a vaccine to receive one. 

That list has expanded recently as younger children have become eligible and as recommended booster shots have become available for those already vaccinated.

The state continues to maintain its VaxFinder program for those looking for a vaccine. 

Find VaxFinder at vaxfinder.mass.gov.

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