Southwick committee discusses logistics of vaccine deployment

SOUTHWICK- The Southwick Local Emergency Management Committee Oct. 22 discussed the logistics of a possible COVID-19 mass vaccination as Southwick’s case numbers remain relatively low despite rising case numbers across the state.

Committee member Tammy Spencer, director of the Southwick Health Department, said the current expectation is that when a COVID-19 vaccine is available it will need to be stored at a colder temperature than the annual flu vaccine, which typically is stored at temperatures of 35 to 46 degrees fahrenheit. 

She said the town conducted a refrigeration survey last year and has already identified some locations with the correct refrigeration and security to store a potential COVID vaccine. 

While the deployment of a vaccine is greatly anticipated, Spencer said that it is not likely that Southwick would receive a large number of doses at first, as supplies will likely be limited to those who are most at-risk and emergency workers. 

“The emergency dispensing site model of vaccinating in 48 hours probably won’t be reasonable,” said Spencer, “it will be smaller, more manageable clinics.”

She said it is likely that pre-registration would be required when the vaccine becomes more widely available. 

Spencer also said that because the vaccine will be new, there is a chance that anyone receiving it would have to wait at the clinic site for 15 to 20 minutes to check for any immediate adverse reactions. Should any of the viable vaccine candidates be approved and deployed in 2021, it will be the fastest a vaccine has ever been produced.

Because of this wait period after inoculation, Spencer said that a drive-thru clinic won’t be likely. Instead, it will look more like a normal flu vaccine clinic. 

During the meeting, Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional Schools Superintendent Jennifer Willard said that so far, schools have not been the superspreaders that people were concerned they would be. She said that masks, proper hand hygiene and social distancing in schools has been working to mitigate spread while students learn in-person. 

She noted that there have been cases with individuals in the district, but there was little to no contact with the infected people inside the school. 

Willard said that when there is a positive case associated with any of their schools, a letter is sent out to families. If there is conern about contact with the infected person, families will receive phone calls. 

Willard also announced that according to state data, the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District has the highest percentage of in-person learning in all of western Massachusetts.

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