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Springfield Promotes Plan For Neighborhood Vaccination Sites

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

     The mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts continues to lobby the Baker administration to authorize neighborhood coronavirus vaccine clinics. 

     Mayor Domenic Sarno said he’s had multiple phone conversations with administration officials, including the governor himself, and has sent a letter to the state department of public health detailing a plan for local clinics to bring the vaccine to people who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

   " For those populations having difficulty getting their vaccine, we want to take it to the streets," Sarno said.  "We are also discussing the possiblity of mobile-type units too."

    Data released last week about the state’s mass vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield showed a majority of the people who have received a shot of vaccine there live in the suburbs.

     The city has identified five proposed locations for vaccine clinics: St John’s Congregational Church – a predominately Black church, the Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center, the Gerena Elementary School, the South End Community Center, and the Rebecca Johnson Elementary school.

     The sites were  chosen to benefit the city’s Black, Latino, Caribbean, and Vietnamese communities, according to Sarno.

     During a visit to a vaccination clinic at the Morningstar Baptist Church in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker said the state is working to get the vaccine to communities of color and to seniors in vulnerable areas.

    Springfield is requesting 2,500 doses of vaccine by late March.

    The city’s plan to set up five neighborhood vaccine clinics is endorsed by Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, who has said for weeks that Massachusetts needs to pick up the pace of vaccinations.

    "I'd also like to see a (vaccination) site west of the ( Connecticut) River," said Keroack. He said collaboratives have formed to distribute vaccine in Hampshire and Franklin counties, but there are vaccine deserts in western Hampden County and in Springfield.

     As of last week, 13.3 percent of Hampden County residents had received a first dose of vaccine, and 5.1 percent a second dose, according to the state health department.  Those rates are below the state average.

     Data released Monday at Sarno’s weekly COVID-19 response briefing shows the winter surge of the coronavirus is on the wane.  The number of new confirmed cases last week was 414, down from a peak of 1,177 new cases eight weeks ago.

     "That is definately good news for us," said Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.

      The city recorded seven deaths due to COVID-19 last week.   Since the pandemic began a year ago, 218 city residents have died from the disease.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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