What is happening with COVID vaccine in Franklin County?
This email gives you an update as of 1/14/21 -- note that this is an ever-evolving situation, and plans will change.
The good news is that the process of immunizing people with the COVID-19 vaccine has begun in Franklin County! 1700 doses have been shipped to our region as of today, as part of the largest vaccination effort in the shortest time ever undertaken in our state. As of this week, about 350,000 vaccine doses have been shipped to Massachusetts, so we are in the very early days of vaccinating nearly 7 million people.
What is the FRCOG doing to help?
- Increasing access to vaccines in the region: The FRCOG is convening regular meetings of all vaccine providers, including healthcare and local public health, as well as the Medical Reserve Corps, to coordinate efforts to serve each section of the three phases, in order.
- Planning for mass vaccination: Our emergency preparedness and public health staff are working with the region’s Emergency Dispensing Site Teams and the REPC and MAPHCO emergency planning coalitions to come up with a regional vaccination plan that is efficient and accessible.
- Identifying resources: The COVID vaccine requires a major investment of staff, equipment, and administrative paperwork -- far more than the flu vaccine. FRCOG is working to address the barriers these requirements present for all of our healthcare and local public health partners. We are tracking all possible financial resources to support COVID clinics in Franklin County, and will share that information when it becomes available. There will be funds made available under the Biden Administration.
- Giving input into state plans: Staff meet regularly with state partners, and FRCOG's Phoebe Walker sits on the State Vaccine Advisory Group.
Who is getting the vaccine when?
As you probably know, vaccines will happen in three phases in Massachusetts, with each part of the phase being vaccinated in order. The definitions of these phases get updated twice a week, so we encourage people to check this page frequently.
- You doubtless know a few people who work in patient-facing jobs who have recently gotten their vaccines at work, and elders who have been vaccinated because they reside in local nursing homes.
- This week the vaccine rollout expanded to include first responders, who are getting their shots at either the Greenfield Health Department’s clinic at the John Zon Center, the Community Health Center, or UMass. This will get us more than half-way through Phase 1.
- Home-based health care workers, personal care attendants, group homes, shelters and the jail, and healthcare workers who do not work with COVID patients will be rounding out this Phase in the next few weeks.
- As of today, Phase 2 is set to begin in mid-February.
Where can people get the vaccine?
All 68,000 people in our county will be offered the vaccine. When it is their turn, people will get their vaccines from many different places, including:
- Primary care practices like Valley Medical Group and Baystate Medical Practices
- The Community Health Center of Franklin County
- Pharmacies that usually give vaccines
- State-supported mass vaccination clinics like the one now open at UMass Amherst
- Board of Health clinics organized by health departments and health districts, including CPHS.
What do we know about vaccine safety?
As each vaccine is approved for use in the US, a group of Massachusetts infectious disease experts reviews all the research, decides if it is safe, and makes recommendations for who should and should not get it. You can read the memos submitted by this Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccine Safety and Efficacy Evaluation Task Force , click here. Also it’s important to know that for now, this plan is about getting adults vaccinated. The two vaccines that are being given now were authorized by the FDA after being tested in clinical trials that included tens of thousands of adults. Clinical trials with children are underway now, but it will be a while before the results are in and children can get vaccinated.
How can people help out with vaccine clinics?
The Medical Reserve Corps has offered to screen and manage all regional vaccine clinic volunteers. Volunteers can join at www.wmmrc.org, and the COG will be reaching out to everyone who volunteered at flu clinics in the fall to get them involved.