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Tripadvisor opens up its headquarters in Needham to distribute vaccines

Site opens Wednesday, and doses will be limited to patients in the Mass General Brigham network

Vaccine recipients will check in at the Tripadvisor reception area.Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor

Health care workers have been heading to some unlikely places to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in Massachusetts: a shopping mall, a hotel, an indoor track, a football stadium.

Now, thanks to travel website operator Tripadvisor, they can add a corporate headquarters to the list.

Tripadvisor on Wednesday announced the use of its temporarily vacant main office, at 400 1st Avenue overlooking Interstate 95 in Needham, as a vaccination center, in partnership with the nearby Newton-Wellesley Hospital. The hospital will staff the vaccination distribution site seven days a week, with a starting capacity of 630 patients a day.

The vaccinations began Wednesday, and will be limited to patients who have a primary care doctor with Mass General Brigham, within the hospital’s network group, or who have seen a Mass General Brigham specialist within the past two years. Appointments must be made in advance, and Mass General Brigham said it is proactively reaching out to patients to set them up.

The federally funded vaccines are provided free of charge, and the visits will be billed to a patient’s insurer. However, patients do not need to be insured to get the vaccine. For now, state rules limit the vaccines to certain individuals such as those age 75 and over, health care workers, and first responders.

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Newton-Wellesley Hospital has been providing vaccines to its employees for the past several weeks, but does not have a patient vaccination clinic at the hospital. A spokeswoman said hospital officials appreciated Tripadvisor’s large, unoccupied building with ample free parking in an adjacent garage.

Tripadvisor is making the space available for free to Mass General Brigham, at least through the end of June. Vaccines will be administered in a downstairs conference room, and patients will then wait in a nearby pub area to ensure there are no significant side effects. The six-story, 280,000-square-foot headquarters complex has been vacant since Tripadvisor’s 650 employees in the building left it last March to work remotely.

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The idea of using the headquarters came up about two weeks ago, prompted by David Kern, vice president of global procurement at Tripadvisor. Kern suggested to his colleagues that it would be great if the company could put some of its temporarily empty space to good use. Some calls were made, and Newton-Wellesley Hospital confirmed its interest. Legal and insurance teams at the hospital and the company went to work. Several top Tripadvisor executives — including chief executive Steve Kaufer, general counsel Seth Kalvert, chief financial officer Ernst Teunissen, and chief people officer Beth Grous — pitched in.

“Everyone on the management team came together and said, ‘This is a no-brainer, let’s do this,’” Tripadvisor spokesman Brian Hoyt said.

Kaufer regularly talks to employees about how Tripadvisor should play a role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoyt said. In a statement, Kaufer encouraged other private-sector leaders to consider how they might use their resources to expedite the vaccination process.

Tripadvisor’s business, like all travel-related companies, has taken a significant hit because of pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions. Company officials say this move is about helping their community, not the company’s financial prospects. However, Kaufer has said that an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will be crucial to the global travel industry’s recovery.

The Tripadvisor office becomes one of about 10 patient vaccination sites for Mass General Brigham, spokesman Rich Copp said. The others are largely hospital-based, though Mass General Brigham has plans to open additional sites in Chelsea, Revere, Jamaica Plain, and Somerville this month. This week, Mass General Brigham, the state’s largest hospital group, plans to administer about 12,000 vaccine doses to patients, consistent with its allocation from the state, he said.

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There are nearly 130 vaccination sites that have opened up across the state in recent weeks, ranging in size from small medical offices and drugstores to Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. The list includes many schools, health centers, and drugstores — and now, at least one corporate headquarters.



Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.