While state website crashed, a Mattapan Church opened to ‘a huge line’ on first day as a vaccination site

Juanita Siggers, 82, of Dorchester, seated, gets a Covid vaccine shot from Eliot Holop a Boston University Medical student. An effort to bring vaccines to communities hardest hit by COVID-19, the Mattapan COVID-19 vaccination site at the Morning Star Baptist Church opened its doors Thursday to begin vaccinating residents who are eligible under the state's vaccine rollout plan. The clinic, which is by appointment only, is being run in partnership with Morning Star Baptist Church, Mattapan Community Health Center and Boston Medical Center. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

In its first hour as a vaccination site on Thursday, Morningstar Baptist Church in Mattapan inoculated 66 patients and more than 100 in all were expected by day’s end.

Catherine Koumarianos, 73, said she had never in her life been excited about getting a shot — until Thursday.

“I was looking forward to it, actually,” she said while waiting out a mandatory 15 minutes to see if she would have an allergic reaction to the vaccination. and, Koumarianos, of West Roxbury, said she felt fine.

Koumarianos was among the lucky few to get vaccinated on the first day of eligibility for people 65 and older, and her positive experience at the church was in sharp contrast to scores of seniors Thursday. Huge demand to sign up for vaccine appointments led to a crash of the state’s website, and further frustration in an already sluggish rollout.

Vaccinations at Morningstar are open to anyone in the state who is eligible and can be booked, independent of the state government portal, through Boston Medical Center’s website, said Dave Kibbe, a hospital spokesman.

“It’s a good feeling here today,” said Dr. Vonzella Bryant, an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center.

Despite having to face a needle, nearly everyone seemed excited and happy to be at Morningstar, Bryant said. Many lit up as they spoke about the prospect of seeing grandchildren and traveling again, she said.

Brenda Byrd, 72, of Hyde Park, lost an elderly cousin in a nursing home to COVID-19 last spring. Byrd said her cousin spent about two weeks on a ventilator before she died.

“I wanted to get the shot,” Byrd said. “I prayed on it.”

Byrd’s niece made Byrd’s appointment about a week ago through the Boston Medical Center website.

The effort underway at Morningstar, a collaboration that also includes Mattapan Community Health Center, is about “one shared goal,” Bishop John Borders III told reporters Thursday. “To take care of each other.”

The location on Blue Hill Avenue is about equal access and convenience for brown and Black communities, and striking down language and transportation barriers, Borders said.

Health care workers were met at 8 a.m. with a huge line, including several Morningstar congregants who had not seen one another in nearly a year, said Dr. Tara Bouton, an infectious disease doctor at Boston Medical Center.

“They were getting a little emotional,” Bouton said. “It was very sweet.”

Continue reading for just $1
Only $1 for 6 months of unlimited access to Globe.com
Get access now
Thanks for reading Globe.com
Access unlimited articles for only $1.
Get access now