As Massachusetts approaches a goal set by Gov. Charlie Baker to have 4.1 million residents vaccinated against COVID-19 by June, the vaccination strategy is shifting to reach the wary and hard to get.
The state plans to phase out of operation four of the seven super vaccination clinics in June (the only one in western Massachusetts at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield will remain open) and shift vaccine doses to more localized sites.
More vaccine will be allocated to regional collaboratives, walk-up clinics, pharmacies, and primary care offices.
The state will double the number of doses provided for use in the 20 communities most severely impacted by COVID-19.
Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said the city has the capacity to administer the additional vaccine the state is promising, but perhaps not the arms to inject.
"There are (vaccine appointment) slots available that are not being filled," Caulton-Harris said.
Appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine have been going begging for several days now across the state, according to various reports.
" We are having the same experience in the city of Springfield," Caulton-Harris said. "We certainly can expand for extra doses, however we need the public to cooperate and want to get those extra doses."
BayState Health had so many unfilled appointments last week at vaccination clinics in Greenfield and Holyoke that it opened both to walk-ins. Another walk-in clinic was held Monday at the Holyoke site.
Springfield lags the state in vaccination rates. 20.7 percent of Springfield residents are fully-vaccinated compared with 35 percent of eligible residents statewide.
Caulton-Harris said the city is trying to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
"We have individuals going door-to-door, visiting specific areas of the city to do outreach," Caulton-Harris said. "We continue to reach out to the hardest to reach population."
A campaign is being planned to promote the vaccine to people age 18-30, said Caulton-Harris.
Almost 60 percent of the newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Springfield last week were people under age 30. People over age 51 – a demographic that has been more fully vaccinated – accounted for just 11 percent of the new cases.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno Monday announced new pop-up vaccination sites in the Six Corners and North End neighborhoods and at the Raymond Jordan Senior Center.
"There is no excuse anymore," Sarno said. "There is plenty of opportunity to get vaccinated."
To remove another obstacle to being vaccinated, the city announced a free transportation program using the Uber ride-sharing service.
Springfield remains at high risk for COVID-19 infection. The city is one of only 26 municipalities the state health department marks with a red classification denoting a high risk for community spread of the coronavirus.