Data on vaccinations that have taken place at one of the large scale vaccination sites in Massachusetts has raised equity concerns.
A report on nearly 14,000 people vaccinated for COVID-19 at the mass vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield sorted by ZIP code reveals that about 35 percent were city residents. The top 5 ZIP codes of vaccination patients were located in suburbs.
The data on vaccinations between January 28th and February 16th was supplied to the city by Curative, the company operating the vaccination site.
After the release of the report at a meeting Tuesday of the Springfield City Council’s COVID-19 Response Committee, Councilor Jesse Lederman, the committee chairman, said it is a clear indicator the state needs to immediately prioritize localized vaccine distribution in Springfield.
"By not building equity into the vaccine rollout, we are essentially seeing a guarantee that individuals who have more resources will be able to access the vaccine at greater rates," said Lederman.
Since the Eastfield Mall vaccination site was announced, City Councilors and state legislators have questioned if it would be available to city residents without access to a car. The elected officials have called for the vaccine to be made more directly available to the city’s Black and brown residents.
The vaccination site had a rocky patch earlier this month when people age 75 and older first became eligible to be vaccinated and hundreds of seniors lined up outside in the cold and snow. By all accounts, the vaccination clinic is now running smoothly.
In the effort to pick up the pace of vaccinations statewide, Gov. Charlie Baker has touted large scale, high volume vaccination sites of which there are now six and regional collaboratives which as of March 1st will number 11.
A new collaborative was designated for Northampton and Amherst. The Northampton Board of Health expects to administer 5,000 vaccine doses a week.
The administration has also pledged resources for 20 communities, including Springfield, that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. On Wednesday, Baker announced a new $4.7 million initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity in those 20 communities.
"These funds will be used to work with local leaders and community and faith-based organizations to strenghten existing efforts to reduce barriers to vaccination and to increase awareness of the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine," said Baker.
Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said if the state will allocate vaccine to the local health department the city has the capacity to get it into the arms of people in their own neighborhoods.
" We have identifed 10 places in the city ( the majority are schools) that meet the criteria that is necessary for vaccination clinics," said Caulton-Harris. She said there is a site in every neighborhood in the city.
The city is operating a vaccination site at the Boland Elementary School, but it is restricted to first responders. Caulton-Harris said the site is allocated 100 vaccine doses per week from the state.