SOUTHWICK- Local Boards of Health will be able to request 100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine per week in a plan that will allow municipalities to conduct its own limited vaccine clinics.
During the remote Board of Health meeting Feb. 4, Southwick Health Director Tammy Spencer said that it is not yet clear when individual towns will begin receiving their vaccine doses.
“It does feel like we are very much in the dark,” said Spencer.
Though the exact timeline is unclear, Spencer said that she believes Southwick is better prepared than other towns to have limited vaccination clinics. In addition to four nurses who will be authorized to administer the shots, Gov. Charlie D. Baker approved EMTs and paramedics to be allowed to administer them as well. Spencer said that Fire Chief Russ Anderson offered to let the Health Department use some of his EMTs and paramedics.
Spencer said she only submitted a request to receive the Moderna vaccine because Southwick does not have the capability to store the Pfizer-BioNTech versions. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires storage temperatures of -112 degrees Fahrenheit and -76 degrees Fahrenheit. The Moderna vaccine requires cold temperatures for storage, but the required temperature of -13 degrees Fahrenheit to 5 degrees Fahrenheit are much easier to attain.
Spencer said a list is being made of Southwick residents who are eligible for the vaccine and are interested in taking it. The Health Department can call individuals on the list when the vaccine becomes available to them.
The major problem with the 100-dose limit is that it does not account for when people will begin needing to receive their second dose. The Moderna vaccine requires a second shot 28 days after the first shot is administered. If Southwick can only receive 100 doses per week no matter what, those who receive their first shots within the first four weeks of the program will also have to be the first in line to receive their second doses across the next four weeks.
If the 100-dose limit holds, that means the Southwick Health Department can only vaccinate 400 people in eight weeks.
Spencer said she thinks the 100-dose limit will only be in place at the beginning, and that Southwick will be able to receive larger shipments of the vaccine as the weeks go on. She also pointed out that there are alternate methods for people to get the vaccine. Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are receiving shipments, and recently a mass vaccination site was set up in the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, a roughly 40-minute drive from Southwick.
Spencer said that any vaccine clinic that is run by the town will likely be held at the Council on Aging at 454 College Highway. This way they can use some of the same COVID-19 infrastructure that was used during the elections last year such as plexiglass shields.
As of Friday, Feb. 5, people aged 75 and older are the latest eligible group that can receive the vaccine. The next phases are expected to include people 65 and older with at least one comorbidity and anyone with at least two comorbidities.