With a majority of new coronavirus infections occurring in younger people in Springfield, Massachusetts, efforts are planned to encourage vaccinations.
Fifty-nine percent of the new COVID-19 cases in Springfield last week were in people age 30 and younger, while people age 51 and older accounted for just 16 percent of the most recent infections.
There was a five percent drop from the previous week in new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Springfield residents age 51 and older, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
"Those ages groups that we see that have been vaccinated we are seeing those numbers in those age groups lower," said Caulton-Harris.
In one week, on April 19th, Massachusetts will open vaccine eligibility to all adults. Springfield’s health department has a campaign ready to launch to encourage younger adults to book appointments to be vaccinated.
"Our marketing plan is concrete," said Caulton-Harris.
She said the effort includes billboards, outreach to the local colleges, using social media influencers, and specially tailored public service broadcast announcements.
"We have a tagline it says, ' I Want A Shot At...' and it means I want a shot at going to the MassMutual Center ( for example)," explained Caulton-Harris. "We'ved asked young people what do they want a shot at?"
Coinciding with the expanded vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts, Baystate Health is also planning a public relations campaign to combat vaccine hesitancy. Baystate president and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said the campaign will feature three physicians from the health care system – one Black, one Latino and one a pregnant white woman – who talk about why they decided to be vaccinated.
"I am grateful that we have so many authentic clinical voices ready to share their own decisions," said Keroack.
Springfield is also planning to increase the number of sites where city residents can get vaccinated near where they live. More than 6,600 doses have been administered so far at neighborhood vaccination sites, according to Caulton-Harris.
" So we are feeling very good about the fact that we have neighborhood clinics," said Caulton-Harris.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Springfield ticked up by 35 to 521 confirmed infections last week as a spring surge continues
Springfield is one of 77 communities in Massachusetts listed by the state health department as high risk for transmission of the coronavirus --- up from 55 cities and towns the week before.
At his weekly COVID-19 response public briefing, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno implored people to continue to follow public health recommendations for avoiding infection.
"We can't be lax," Sarno said. "So please you still need to wear the masks."
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have leveled off or slightly fallen in the last two weeks. On Monday, Baystate counted 76 COVID patients in its network of hospitals with 14 in critical care.