Why have COVID vaccines been so invisible in New Bedford?
There was no press release from City Hall about it.
The city of New Bedford’s first COVID-19 vaccine site, that is.
It’s located at the Andrea McCoy rec center in case you didn’t know. There was no big public relations campaign spreading the word. That was evidently because this vaccine site is for a “target audience,” according to the city.
The City of New Bedford’s COVID-19 vaccination site at the Andrea McCoy Recreation Center. [ Photo courtesy of City of New Bedford ]
The target audience is first responders and the over 75-years-old residents of three New Bedford elderly housing projects -- Olympia and Tripp towers and the New Bedford Hotel.
That’s not a bad target unless you happen to have an 83-year-old mother who still lives on her own or with her family. The thinking was that the towers -- where there have been some outbreaks of COVID -- were higher risk because of the closeness of the living. Congregate living settings are part of the state’s Phase 1 for vaccine distribution
Meanwhile Walgreens was running clinics open to all the qualified public in Fall River, Somerset and Fairhaven. CVS was also running a vaccine clinic in Fall River and the state was running one at Dartmouth High School. Some of the pharmacies, of course, were asking you to register as a customer even though they are distributing vaccines as part of a federal program.
It was odd that there was nothing in New Bedford for the general public over 75. It’s a city of 100,000 people and Walgreens and CVS stores are located throughout its 11-mile length.
CVS does say it will open a new location in New Bedford and 10 other locales across the state on Feb. 12; people can start registering on Feb. 11.
But seven weeks after vaccines first made their way across the country, the state of Massachusetts’ website as of Friday listed not a single open-to-the-public location in New Bedford, its seventh largest city.
Clearly, a big part of the problem is that there is a shortage of vaccine supply but still, almost two months after the vaccines first began making their way to the Bay State there was no place for the general public who are over 75-years-old to register in New Bedford.
Meanwhile, West Virginia was said to be the model for getting the life-saver jabs out quickly and Massachusetts ranked 48th of 50 states in percentage of vaccines distributed, according to the Becker Hospital Report. Mississippi and Alabama were lower.
Late in the week Gov. Baker was sticking to his guns, insisting that the state had done a good job by tightly limiting the Massachusetts vaccine distribution to the highest priority groups -- health care workers and first responders. When the 75-and-older category started on Feb, 1, he finally relented and established a hotline for the scores of thousands of senior citizens who either don’t have a computer to make a reservation at the drug stores, or if they do have one, can’t figure their way through the online mazes to register.
Jon Carvalho, the mayor’s spokesman, said a big part of the problem was the shortage of vaccines.
New Bedford is receiving 400 doses a week but each person needs two doses and there are 25,000 senior citizens in New Bedford, or roughly a quarter of the population.
Late in the week, Southcoast Health announced that it will begin administering both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to individuals in Phase 2A. I was unable to reach their spokesperson but a published report said that beginning Monday they will begin vaccinating individuals 75-years and older.
Southcoast was said to be “randomly selecting” the first group of recipients in Phase 2A, although if I understood their information correctly, if you are a Southcoast patient who qualifies you could also register at their online health care portal My Chart.
There will be no walking in, of course. This is not Florida or West Virginia. Which both have vaccinated a higher percentage of their populations than Massachusetts.