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Some Market Basket customers embrace chance to get COVID vaccines at pop-up site

People waited for 15 minutes after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic outside of Market Basket in Chelsea on Thursday.
People waited for 15 minutes after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic outside of Market Basket in Chelsea on Thursday.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

REVERE — Ursula Barone hadn’t planned on receiving her COVID-19 vaccine Friday.

But when she arrived at Market Basket in Revere Friday morning to shop for food and saw a small outdoor clinic in the parking lot, she made a “spur of the moment” choice to end her monthslong debate over the inoculation.

Her husband had received his shot a few months ago at their home in Revere. But Barone, 62, was too nervous to get one. “I chickened out,” she said. She recently had been diagnosed with blood clots, and was wary of any potential risks of Johnson & Johnson, which have since been refuted by federal officials.

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“I’ve been just debating, every day for the past month, do I go to the doctor’s office? Do I go to Walgreens? Do I go to CVS?” Barone said. “Every day, I would take a step forward, and two steps back.”

Outside of Market Basket on Friday, Barone apprehensively approached the vaccination tents and spoke with a staffer, who, she said, convinced her to get the shot.

“I want to be safe. I’m 62 years old, I have three beautiful grandchildren, and I want to be around for my grandchildren,” she said. “Maybe God — it was just meant for me to get it today.”

A partnership between Massachusetts and Market Basket is offering free, walk-up vaccination clinics in the parking lots of stores in Chelsea, Fall River, Lawrence, Lynn and Revere on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this week and next. The clinics are run by CIC Health.

In Revere, the clinic’s four white tents and four rows of chairs — cordoned off by caution tape attached to upside-down shopping carts — took up fewer than three dozen parking spaces, and was demarcated by several signs.

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Residents who got their first shot at Market Basket will receive a $25 gift certificate to the store, funded by the state.

For some, it was that incentive that drew them to the pop-up clinic Friday.

Joseph Polonski, 65 — who lived in Malden before he became homeless and moved into his car — said the gift card was “frosting on the cake.”

“When you’re homeless, you’ve got to maneuver to survive,” Polonski explained. “When they said $25, when this came up, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll grab that.’”

“That’ll feed me for three days if I’m frugal about it,” he added.

For others, it was convenience.

Jeffrey Nolan, 56, and his brother, Scott Rossetti, 54, were grocery shopping at Market Basket when they decided to stop by the vaccination tents.

“I got my pay today, so I decided to go shopping, so I went over there and spent a good amount of money and I heard somebody say there’s shots over here, so I came over and got my shot,” Nolan said.

Nolan was also motivated by the recent rollback of the state’s mask mandate, he said. As of May 29, Massachusetts only requires face coverings on public and private transportation, in health care facilities or congregate care settings, and in schools.

“If I’m taking my mask off, I want to make sure I’m vaccinated,” he said.

Nolan said he chose to receive Johnson & Johnson, because he didn’t want to worry about receiving a second dose elsewhere. At the clinics, residents who choose Pfizer or Moderna are able to schedule second appointments for late June or early July.

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For part of the morning, a man stood nearby, trying to discourage shoppers from patronizing the vaccination site, shouting debunked claims about vaccines, autism, masks, and even sorcery, into a megaphone. After a brief conversation with Revere police officers, he left.

The Market Basket clinics are the latest effort by Massachusetts to expand vaccine access and encourage widespread inoculation. Though the state has the second-highest vaccination rate in the nation, some communities lag behind others.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Charlie Baker said the initiative is about offering the shot “anywhere and everywhere we can.”

“As we get close to that goal of vaccinating over 4 million residents with two shots, we’ve been ramping up targeted community outreach efforts to reach the remaining residents who still remain unvaccinated,” Baker said.

Approximately 3.7 million residents, or 54 percent of the population, were fully vaccinated — with one dose of Johnson & Johnson or both doses of Pfizer or Moderna — as of June 2.


Camille Caldera can be reached at camille.caldera@globe.com.