The new Metro North COVID-19 Vaccination Partnership — a consortium of nine cities, Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), and Tufts University — announced recently that it will open three joint vaccination sites to expand COVID-19 vaccine access in the metro north area. The regional partnership was recently approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as a part of its statewide network of vaccination locations.
Located at CHA’s vaccination centers at 176 Somerville Ave. in Somerville and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett along with Tufts University’s Gantcher Center in Medford, the three sites will be operated and staffed by the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), respective local Boards of Health, and Tufts University, with CHA serving as the health provider for all three sites. The sites at the Gantcher Center and Encore started administering vaccines the first week of May and the Somerville site is expected to open the second week of May. Cities and towns participating include Arlington, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council is also helping to coordinate participating municipalities.
“Our communities and organizations came together to help advance both the statewide vaccination effort and to bring the vaccine closer to home especially for our vulnerable residents and workers. These centers aim to help break down the barriers to vaccine access and increase vaccine equity by reducing travel, language, and mobility challenges. For all of us, being ‘in this together’ truly means combining resources and working together to beat this virus,” explained the Partnership via a joint statement.
“These communities have been on the front lines of the pandemic since it first hit our region in early 2020, and are in dire need of a regional solution to increasing the rates of vaccination and building vaccine confidence,” said Mark Fine, Director of Municipal Collaboration at MAPC. “By banding together to get doses closer to where residents live and work, we can increase the pace of vaccinations and ensure folks have access to this critical public health resource regardless of immigration status, car ownership, English fluency, work hours, or access to health insurance.”
The sites will follow CHA’s accessible and supportive vaccine clinic approach with multilingual services, welcoming signage, neighborhood-based locations, and accommodations for anyone requiring seating, shelter, or support as they wait.
“As a community health system that serves several of the communities that were among the hardest hit during the pandemic, we are committed to doing everything we can to help local residents get and stay healthy,” said Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Assaad Sayah, MD. “The Partnership will provide consistent and convenient access to COVID-19 vaccinations and accelerate efforts to get us past this crisis.”
The Partnership applied to DPH with a proposal for the three sites combined to deliver a minimum of 750 doses per day, the threshold for approval as a mass vaccination site, with the capacity to deliver as many as 5,000 a day. By uniting to create a cluster of sites, the communities were able to qualify for approval. The sites will also have the ability to adjust their staffing in response to changes in vaccine supply.
“Helping our local communities throughout this public health crisis has been a priority for Tufts – it’s the right thing to do,” said Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco. “We have hosted first responders, hospital personnel and COVID patients in our dorms, provided testing to our neighbors and school personnel, supported hard-hit food security programs, provided grants to struggling nonprofits, and helped launch affordable pooled testing programs in the Medford and Somerville public school systems. Serving as a regional mass vaccination site is one more way we can help, and we’re proud to collaborate with our partners in this effort.”
Mobile and Popup Vaccination Under Development
The three sites will be open to all Massachusetts residents. Appointments can be made by visiting https://home.color.com/vaccine/register/metronorth. Residents can also visit VaxFinder.mass.gov or call 211 to register for an appointment at any State site. In an effort to best serve its vulnerable populations, the Partnership also successfully requested permission to reserve 25% of vaccine doses for targeted vaccine clinics for residents of their nine communities. Plans are being considered for mobile and popup sites designed to reach underserved persons and areas.
“Although rates of COVID19 infections are currently decreasing, now is the time to bring targeted vaccine efforts to our community to increase access to all”, said Meredith Hurley, Director of the Winthrop Department of Public Health. “As variants continue to evolve, we encourage all to be vaccinated. The Winthrop Department of Public Health will be able to assist to making appointments, accessing transportation and answering any additional questions.”