Mass. fire, health officials decry governor's plan to stop local agencies from distributing vaccine

Westwood Fire Chief John Deckers said his department has invested time and resources into preparing to give the vaccine and urged the governor to reverse the decision


Maureen Sullivan
Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

WESTWOOD, Mass. — Effective Monday, March 1, local communities will no longer be administering first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

That decision from Gov. Charlie Baker last week has drawn heat from officials in Dedham, Norwood and Westwood.

Westwood fire personnel and health officials have vaccinated more than 300 seniors and say they are prepared to vaccinate 500 to 750 people per week. However, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that beginning March 1, local communities will no longer be involved in distributing the vaccine.
Westwood fire personnel and health officials have vaccinated more than 300 seniors and say they are prepared to vaccinate 500 to 750 people per week. However, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that beginning March 1, local communities will no longer be involved in distributing the vaccine. (Photo/Westwood Fire Department)

Westwood Fire Chief John Deckers, who helped organize the town's vaccination efforts, said that the town's leadership is "working on a formal response to the governor in hopes of highlighting the negative impact that his decision has made on the residents of Westwood.

"The Norfolk County fire chiefs have already gone on record that we do not support this decision, and I know that the governing boards of the Councils on Aging have also sent along letters."

"I have also been in contact with Senator Rush's and Representative McMurtry's office, and both have sent letters asking the governor to adjust his plan to include local communities, especially those, like Westwood, that did what they were asked to do by the governor — be prepared to help isolate, mitigate, provide EMS services, and plan to control the spread of COVID-19 and be ready to vaccinate your residents once a vaccine had been approved.

"Westwood invested many personnel hours, and taxpayer resources to get prepared to support the governor's mission."

Deckers reported that Westwood has vaccinated more than 300 seniors, and "helped guide over 750 to area clinics like Gillette. We even still have a waiting list.

"We were and still are ready to spin up our resources and vaccinate 500 to 750 people per week, if required," he said.

Norwood's response

Norwood Town Manager Tony Mazzucco, in a letter to residents posted on the town's website, said "This decision by the governor is detrimental to our community and public health in general. It's important to note also that local, state and federal officials have developed plans, trained and spent millions of tax dollars on mass vaccination scenarios. The governor is choosing to not follow established practices regarding mass vaccinations.

"We have spoken with our state delegation, and Representative Rogers and Senator Rush are in full support of the town of Norwood and cities and towns throughout the commonwealth that the governor must reverse his decision and allow cities and towns to continue their local vaccination clinics."

Mazzucco asked residents to contact their state officials and "let them know — loud and clear — that the decision to remove municipalities from vaccination is dangerous to public health, a threat to our most vulnerable population, and detrimental to a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic."

A full list of contact information is available via http://www.norwoodma.gov/.

What Dedham has to say

In Dedham, town officials, including the Board of Health, also are asking the governor to reconsider the decision, and to request additional supplies of the vaccine.

"We are ready and capable to continue to further assist in the tremendous undertaking of vaccinating the citizens of Dedham on a local level if the state will supply us with more vaccine," according to the letter.

According to a press release posted on the town's website, "The town of Dedham has successfully provided the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 400 Dedham residents, and are equipped to hold additional vaccination events if provided with enough supply.

"Like many other municipalities, we are extremely well prepared to be an ally to the Commonwealth in this endeavor, but have not been afforded an adequate supply of vaccine to maximize our ability to assist in the cause."

Read the entire letter at https://www.dedham-ma.gov/Home/Components/News/News/3071/16?backlist=%2f

All three communities are in the "yellow" category, according to the weekly COVID-19 report released Feb. 18.

Where to obtain the vaccine

Qualified residents may make appointments to get the vaccine at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, the DoubleTree in Danvers, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Natick Mall and the former Circuit City in Dartmouth.

Some pharmacies and grocery stories, such as CVS and Wegmans, are also taking appointments for the vaccine.

For details, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-locations

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(c)2021 Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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