The city of Springfield is pushing to convince more young adults to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Springfield’s health department this week will launch a public information campaign featuring television ads, social media influencers, and billboards with messages that encourage people – especially those age 30 and under -- to get vaccinated.
"This is an all out effort to reduce vaccine hesitancy," said Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
She said another strategy to overcome vaccine hesitancy is to make the process of getting a shot more convenient by dispensing the vaccine at neighborhood-based clinics.
" (The city) is trying to put clinics in places where we believe the residents are anxious and wanting and needing vaccines," Caulton-Harris said.
Speaking at Mayor Domenic Sarno’s weekly briefing on the city’s COVID-19 response, Caulton-Harris said the health department hopes to announce a new pop-up vaccination site later this week which will administer the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She said the city has 1,100 doses of the J&J vaccine that has now been cleared by federal regulators to be used again.
"The risk is very very low, and the benefit means the individual will be vaccinated against COVID-19 which is extremely highly contagious and has been to over 540,000 Americans--deadly," Caulton-Harris said.
More than 50,000 Springfield residents – roughly a third of the city’s population – have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. About 10,000 people have received the shots at one of the neighborhood based sites set up by the city’s health department.
Over the weekend about 300 people received an initial dose of COVID-19 vaccine at an inter-faith vaccination drive. A dozen houses of worship participated in the event, which was held at Saint John’s Congregational Church and organized by the city’s Vax Force – a committee set up to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Sarno said the vaccine drive was the product of research by the Vax Force that found well over half of the people surveyed said they trusted a faith leader to provide accurate information.
"We are utilizing them to dispel any misinformation, rumors and innuendos about the vaccine," Sarno said.
Springfield recorded 504 new COVID-19 cases last week, down from 548 cases reported during the week of April 11th. It followed two consecutive weeks of rising case counts.
The city remains at very high risk for community spread of the coronavirus according to the latest data from the state health department.
Of the new cases reported in Springfield last week, almost 60 percent were people age 30 and younger.
Hospitals are seeing severe illness in some unvaccinated people under age 30 said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.
" Many times they might have a comorbiditiy -- they might be obese, they might be diabetic, etceter. But there are individuals who are otherwise apparently healthy who can wind up requiring critical care," said Keroack.
Springfield recorded seven new deaths from COVID-19 last week. Since the start of the pandemic, 246 city residents have died after contracting the coronavirus.