Dozens of seniors who arrived in Framingham Saturday to receive their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine were met with an unexpected problem.
The vaccination clinic hosted at Joseph P. Keefe Techincal High School is only open to city residents, but the state’s online scheduling system still allowed people from other communities — as well as people under the age of 75 — to sign up for an appointment.
Despite having completed registration forms in hand, the seniors who did not live in Framingham were told they were not eligible to receive the dose and that their appointment had already been canceled, according to the mayor’s office.
“The (Framingham) health department had to go through line by line and cancel appointments,” said Kelly McFalls, a spokesperson for Mayor Yvonne Spicer. “But some people said they didn’t receive a cancellation (email).”
A message seeking comment from the state Department of Public Health, which oversees the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, was not returned Saturday night.
The communication lapse caused frustration for the dozens who lined up outside the clinic. At one point, clinic workers divided the crowd into two groups between Framingham residents and those who had come from out of town. Residents were given first priority, but there were enough doses of the vaccine available to accommodate the others who were waiting, McFalls said.
“We were able to accommodate a lot of the people who said they had appointments,” she said, later adding: “I was there until the end, and there was no one left in line.”
McFalls said a total of 300 vaccines were distributed at the clinic Saturday. She did not know how many of those doses were split between residents and non-residents. All who received a dose of the vaccine are over 75, she said.
Phase 2 of the state’s rollout plan began last week making seniors 75 and older eligible to receive the vaccine. But the state’s online program has been criticized for making the task of signing up too difficult for older populations who may not be comfortable with the technology involved.
The move into Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout has been rocky with several communities reporting last week that they had not received any doses to distribute. On Friday, the state opened a call center to help senior residents book their appointments following widespread frustration over the online scheduling system.
While the clinic may have been able to accommodate folks on Saturday, the city is asking those with the ability to travel around the state for their vaccine to seek it elsewhere.
“Part of the reason this population (over 75) wants to come here is that’s in their hometown and it’s convenient,” McFalls said. “This is for people who can’t travel.”