Like other local health departments, Natick’s has struggled to get as much COVID-19 vaccine as it would like to distribute in light of the overall shortage supplied to the state. The Commonwealth has limited communities not at very high risk levels from requesting more than 100 doses a week, and many have come up empty.
But Natick Public Health Director Jim White explained during this week’s Select Board meeting how Natick’s Health Department came to find itself with many more doses than it expected to get for use this week.
Natick, in conjunction with Wayland, began vaccinating first responders in mid-January, doling out 200 doses. The setup put Natick in a position to continue with vaccinations through more phases of the rollout if doses became available.
Natick has received its maximum doses in recent weeks, dispensing 100 doses on consecutive Wednesdays for locals who were eligible to get shots and lucky enough to get through the registration system, which opens and closes quickly when word gets out (get notified of availability here). The town has also begun administering second doses to first responders.
White and Public Health Nurse Deborah Chaulk were discussing how they might come by more doses, and wondering why organizations like colleges and universities that have reported surpluses don’t release the extra doses to local boards of health. Chaulk raised the same question about hospitals, which have also been reporting unused vaccines.
That prompted White to reach out to Steve Baroletti, COO of MetroWest Medical Center and that organization’s rep to Natick 180, the local organization that addresses addiction and substance abuse. And as White commented: “Talk about sweet timing.”
White emailed Baroletti that if the medical center ever got any spare doses, Natick’s Health Department would gladly take them off their hands. “Lo and behold he was in a meeting discussing with the state about their surplus and handing back in to the state, which the state requested, or if they had another certified approved site within the area that they knew of that could use the vaccine that they could transfer it over to them,” White said. Baroletti got back and said he could deliver 150 doses, but then last Friday actually delivered 300, which Natick was able to use at clinics this week for the 75-and-older crowd.
“We’re doing what we can with what we’ve got, but we’d love to do more,” White said.
Natick is also aiming to hold clinics at Natick Housing Authority locations for those eligible residents toward the end of this month, he said.
Meanwhile, the state has announced that a vaccine site open to all eligible residents will begin operating at Natick Mall on Feb. 22, with plans to administer 500 doses per day. White says the plan for that site is to gear up for 3,000 doses a day, seven days a week, once things get cranking.
If you have an interest in learning more about what the Health Department is up to beyond what’s shared at Select Board meetings, be sure to reach out to Natick Pegasus and let them know you’d like for them to make recordings of Natick Board of Health meetings available on a regular basis.
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