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‘Even if my contribution was small, it ultimately adds up:’ Newton North opens doors for weekend vaccine clinic

Brenton Abdulah, 13, from Newton got his Pfizer vaccination from Dr. Michael Singer at Newton North High School Saturday.
Brenton Abdulah, 13, from Newton got his Pfizer vaccination from Dr. Michael Singer at Newton North High School Saturday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Hundreds of children received first-dose vaccine shots at a Newton North High School clinic Saturday, just over a week after federal officials cleared the way to administer Pfizer doses to adolescents ages 12 to 15.

The expanded vaccine rollout to younger residents resulted in doses administered to about 51,000 adolescents across the state as of Thursday and comes as the state continues to report dropping COVID-19 statistics.

At Newton North, 14-year-old Aayan Sharma was among those who received their first jabs Saturday. Sharma, a Brown Middle School student who learned of the clinic through his school, said in a phone interview that getting the shot would help save lives and was the right thing to do.

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“Even if it meant getting that little pinch in the arm, which didn’t hurt at all ... it’s one step closer to getting my family back to normal, and ultimately the world back to normal,” Sharma said. “Even if my contribution was small, it ultimately adds up.”

About 250 of the nearly 300 people who received their first shots at the school Saturday were in the newest group to become eligible for Pfizer vaccine, organizers said. The by-appointment clinic was expected to continue Sunday and administer doses to another 180 people.

Dr. Justin Holtzman, the medical director of Holtzman Medical Group in Brookline, partnered with the city and its schools to launch the Newton North clinic.

“The more people who are vaccinated, including younger people, the closer we get to herd immunity and the closer everyone gets to being back to normal,” Holtzman said Saturday morning in a phone interview.

As of Saturday, 7.4 million vaccinations have been administered in Massachusetts, according to the state Department of Public Health, with 48,756 new vaccinations reported.

The department also reported 405 new confirmed cases Saturday, bringing the state’s total to more than 659,000. It reported five new confirmed deaths, bringing the state’s total to 17,458.

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The state’s data showed the current average of daily reported new cases has fallen to levels last seen in late August, while separate statistics tracking positivity rates and hospitalizations have also dropped to levels not reported since earlier in the pandemic.

Caroline Dunne, 12, from Newton reacted after getting her Pfizer vaccination at Newton North High School.
Caroline Dunne, 12, from Newton reacted after getting her Pfizer vaccination at Newton North High School. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, in a statement to the Globe Saturday, hailed Holtzman as a hero for his office’s work in vaccinating residents.

“It’s great to have this vaccination opportunity right here in the center of Newton for our [12- to 15-year-olds] as well as others who live and work here,” Fuller said. “This reflects another important step in the City’s ongoing efforts to turn the corner on the pandemic.”

People who receive their doses at the school this weekend will be scheduled for the second Pfizer doses there on June 12 or 13, officials said. Sixty percent of Newton’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the city.

Holtzman has been overseeing a separate vaccine clinic at the former Mount Ida College campus in Newton since January. That clinic has conducted about 1,200 to 1,500 vaccinations weekly, he said, and his office has worked with the city and its health department to help vaccinate seniors and other vulnerable local populations.

Avi Smith, director of COVID-19 response for Holtzman Medical Group, said about 40 people were volunteering at Newton North this weekend, including many from a group of 800 volunteers worked at the Mount Ida clinic.

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“It was shocking and amazing to us ... there were so many people who were trying to find ways to feel like they can be useful during the past year, helping with COVID,” Smith said in a phone interview.

Dr. Michael Singer, a Newton resident who was among the volunteers who administered vaccines at Saturday’s clinic, has also worked at the Mount Ida site.

Singer, the chief scientific officer of Cartesian Therapeutics, a Maryland-based biotechnology firm, estimated he’s administered a couple thousand of vaccine doses since January.

“Ten years from now, I’d like to be able to say that I did my part and took time to take care of everyone in the community,” Singer said in a phone interview Saturday.

Sherry Klein has volunteered 10 times for Holtzman, including on Saturday at the school clinic. Klein, who is an accountant, said she wanted to do more than spend the pandemic social distancing at home.

“It’s been challenging times for everyone; everyone has had to deal with this pandemic in a different way,” she said. “And you can start to feel hopeless and wonder when it is going to end.”

“By volunteering, it gave me a little bit of hope,” Klein said.

Selene Carvajal, 12, from Newton got her Pfizer vaccination from Dr. Michael Singer at Newton North High School.
Selene Carvajal, 12, from Newton got her Pfizer vaccination from Dr. Michael Singer at Newton North High School. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.