‘Let us get to work’: Mass. communities frustrated after state pulls plug on local vaccine clinics

ACUSHNET, Mass. (WLNE) – Some cities and towns in Massachusetts are frustrated after the state announced they would be allocating COVID-19 vaccine doses away from local clinics to stock mass vaccination sites instead.

In Acushnet, a vaccination clinic is set up at the town’s Council On Aging and was ready to welcome in residents, until the state pulled the plug last week.

“We met, we toured, we discussed, we fine-tuned, and on Thursday of last week in the morning, we were ready to go. Thursday last week in the afternoon, the state pulled the rug out from under us.”

Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher said he and leaders in Fairhaven worked weeks on their joint community clinics, preparing to vaccinate the towns’ 25,000 residents.

“We’re ready. We did what we thought we were supposed to do, from what we were asked to do by the state, which was to put together vaccine clinics locally,” Gallagher said. “In the 20 years since 9/11, all of us have gone to countless meetings, written countless grants for emergency preparedness. This is an emergency, we are prepared. Let us get to work.”

The state’s reasoning is that prioritizing its supply of doses to mass vaccination sites like Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium will streamline the process. State leaders made the announcement last week.

Gallagher said he found out while he was touring New Bedford’s clinic to get ideas on how to improve Acushnet’s.

Some cities and towns will continue to receive regular vaccine doses, but only those deemed high-risk by the state. New Bedford is one of them, but the city is only able to vaccinate residents.

“We share highways and streets, an economy,” said Gallagher of Acushnet’s neighbor. “It is wonderful for the residents of New Bedford that they have a local clinic they can go to. It is incredibly frustrating to the people of Fairhaven and Acushnet that we’re shut out.”

Leaders in Attleboro are equally as frustrated. They were preparing to open a vaccination site for residents at LaSalette Shrine.

“We were excited to receive the vaccine, we were excited that we were gonna be able to provide those services to our community,” said Attleboro health agent Jessica Horsman.

“We feel bad for our residents, especially the ones that really want the vaccine and some of them do have barriers,” said Jacquie O’Brien, public health nurse. Those barriers include lack of transportation to get to a mass vaccination site and access to the internet to make an appointment.

“We were able to reach out to that frail crowd of seniors that now is having increased difficulty getting the vaccine, difficulty getting to Gillette stadium or other mass sites,” added Melissa Tucker, Director of the Attleboro Council On Aging.

“In principle,” Mayor Paul Heroux said, “that sounds nice. But in practice, as I said last week, it causes a lot of hardships.”

These community leaders hope down the line their clinics will be utilized.

“Folks want to stay local,” said Gallagher, “and they want to stay with people that they know.”

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Categories: Attleboro, Coronavirus, Massachusetts, New Bedford, News, Regional News