The Baker administration has approved a plan for neighborhood coronavirus vaccination sites in the largest city in western Massachusetts.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno Friday announced the scheduling of pop-up vaccination clinics in four city neighborhoods in an effort to provide access to the potentially life-saving vaccine for city residents who lack the means to travel to the state’s large-scale vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall.
" This, what we are doing here is much more intimate," said Sarno. "This is Springfield-centric for the underserved."
Vaccination clinics will be held on March 23rd at St. John’s Congregational Church –a predominately Black church in the city’s Mason Square neighborhood, March 25th at the South End Community Center, March 26th at the Gerena school in the North End, and April 1st at the Raymond A Jordan Senior Center.
Each site is being allocated 200 doses of vaccine.
If the state comes through with more vaccine, Sarno said distribution can be expanded to additional neighborhoods.
"We are going to do as many shots of vaccine as we can," Sarno said. "It is a start and our foot is in the door."
In a letter last month to the state’s public health commissioner, Sarno proposed a plan for five neighborhood sites to vaccinate members of the city’s Black, brown, Vietnamese, and Caribbean communities. He requested 2,500 initial doses of vaccine.
"They liked our plan," Sarno said. "The door is open now and they've given their word that if they get the vaccine they will send ( some) our way."
The Sarno administration, the City Council, and members of the city’s legislative delegation have all called for a more localized effort to distribute the vaccine. Those calls grew louder last month when data showed that roughly two-thirds of the people vaccinated at the Eastfield Mall super site live in the suburbs.
State Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield said he and other members of the legislature’s Black and Latino Legislative Caucus pressed Baker every chance they got to allocate vaccines to the minority communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
"We've been advocating for this for a very long time," said Williams.
Last month, Baker announced plans for a vaccine equity initiative in 20 cities, including Springfield.
Data from the state’s COVID-19 Command Center shows vaccination rates for Latinos and Blacks lag well behind whites in the state.
Registration for the Springfield pop-up sites will be done online, but the link to book an appointment will be restricted to city residents, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
"We will be doing targeted outreach because we want to make sure that we are getting vaccines to people we believe are underserved in our communities," said Caulton-Harris.
Only city residents currently eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccination in Massachusetts will be given appointments.