The Massachusetts National Guard is supporting efforts to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in locales including East Boston, Springfield, and Danvers, authorities said.
In a statement dated Tuesday, the National Guard said 10 medically qualified members last week began partnering with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to administer vaccines, and that two 10-person teams were also on site to assist at the mass vaccination sites in Springfield and Danvers.
Guard assistance at the East Boston center, the statement said, is expected to last at least three weeks to support four vaccination sites in the health center’s service area in Eastie, the South End, Chelsea, and Revere.
The guard said it will “continue to make qualified personnel available to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for deployment to facilities requesting assistance.”
In a follow-up email, a guard spokesman, Captain Aaron Smith, said all the vaccine site deployments will last multiple weeks.
“The Massachusetts National Guard teams will be augmenting staff at sites in Danvers, Springfield, and Boston for several weeks,” Smith wrote. “However, that time may change based on various factors.”
Governor Charlie Baker was asked about the guard deployments during a briefing Wednesday.
“They are currently doing what I would describe as important work around logistics and operations at a number of these locations,” Baker said. “And because they come when they’re called ... I don’t need to give them a heck of a lot of lead time to ask them to get involved in stuff.”
He continued, “We use them when we think they can be extremely helpful to us. ... We thought it was appropriate at some of these sites to bring them in for logistical support services.”
In a separate statement Tuesday, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno’s office said he and Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood sent city police officers to the mass vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall to “order” Curative, the outfit running the operation, to “immediately get our seniors and those who are waiting in line” into the mall and out of the cold.
In addition, Sarno’s office said, people with scheduled appointments who can’t wait inside will be told to wait in their cars. Officials said Curative “must establish” a method for notifying people waiting in their vehicles when they can line up inside the mall for scheduled shots.
Sarno, in the statement, also alluded to the Guard deployment.
“It is time to take the bull by the horns,” Sarno said. “Although I am very thankful to Governor [Charlie] Baker and Lt. Governor [Karyn] Polito for their partnership and commitment to Springfield and Western Massachusetts by placing this mass vaccination site in our city – the operational logistics by Curative must improve.”
Sarno said he and Clapprood “have directed our dedicated SPD units to the Eastfield Mall to tell Curative to get our seniors and those individuals waiting in line for their vaccination to go inside and out of the cold.”
City police, Sarno continued, “will work with the National Guard, who the Governor and Lt. Governor have recently dispatched to provide assistance, to assure that our beloved seniors are taken care of and are not waiting outside in the cold weather and that they are reassured that they will not lose their place in line.”
In a separate statement, Curative said patient and staff safety is a “top priority,” and that site management has made several changes to expedite the vaccination process.
The company said it has “adjusted the flow of our line to get patients inside the building faster and have adjusted our vaccination intake process to avoid waits in the cold. As our on-site team works to implement line controls for the safety of our patients, we ask all patients arriving early to remain in their cars until 15 minutes prior to their appointment. This will help assist us in enforcing social distancing on-site.”
Curative provided a list of steps people should take to ensure their appointments run smoothly.
Those with appointments, the statement said, should arrive at the site no earlier than 15 minutes beforehand, have their appointment confirmation numbers and identifications available, and bring their own wheelchairs whenever possible, as the site has “limited wheelchairs available.”
Patients, the company said, should not wait in line outside but instead “wait in their car until their appointment time.” Staff will provide water to all, the statement said.
“Anyone who was scheduled to be vaccinated February 8-9, but did not receive their dose can return to the Eastfield Mall between February 10-14 from 8am - 6pm ET to get vaccinated,” the company said. “Curative will be dedicating the 8am-9am ET time slot specifically to those who missed their appointments on Monday and Tuesday — no one else will be admitted during this time frame. However, if that time slot is unavailable, we welcome those patients anytime before 6pm ET.”
The company said in a follow-up statement Wednesday that “the vaccination site is running smoothly today,” and that on Tuesday, the Eastfield Mall site vaccinated 1,461 people at the Eastfield Mall. The team, the company said, continuing to hire more staff and has distributed over 10,000 vaccines at this site and will continue to increase the number of doses per day.
“Our team is sending direct communication to patients on everything they need to know about the vaccination site and process, including when to arrive at the vaccination site,” the company said “During the patient’s first visit to the site, the second dose is scheduled through the Curative software.”
Curative said anyone with questions can contact the company via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 888-702-9042.