Health Department will handle local vaccination effort

Jan 12, 2021 by

Published in the January 12, 2021 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — The current COVID news for the town is “not good at all,” but the prognosis for the future is very optimistic. That was the message that Health Director Ruth Clay delivered at last night’s Town Council meeting.

Clay said that there was no particular pattern and no Wakefield “super spreader,” just “an awful lot of people testing positive.” She said that in Wakefield, about 30-40 people a day are testing positive. She noted that the Health Department is keeping up with contact tracing with the help of the Community Tracing Collaborative.

“People are still sick and people are still dying,” Clay said.

Having delivered the bad news, Clay quickly pivoted to the good news, which is Wakefield’s plan for getting everyone vaccinated.

“This week we are doing first responders and tomorrow we are vaccinating the vaccinators,” she said.

Clay said that local first-responders will be vaccinated this Thursday, Friday and Saturday through the Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition (a coalition of municipal health departments of Malden, Medford, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Winchester and Wakefield).

Meanwhile, the process of vaccinating those in congregate care settings is already underway and is being handled through contracts with pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreen’s.

But the big news, Clay said, is that the Wakefield Health Department has committed to the task of public vaccination clinics after they finish with first responders, in accordance with the timeline outlined by the state.

She said that it’s too early to give specific dates for each group but said that planning will start next week for how and when the public vaccination process will happen. She said that the Health Department will keep the public informed with updates along the way.

She recommended watching the town’s web site and signing up for the town’s Code Red reverse 911 system to receive the latest updates.

She added that the Health Department will re-activate the old Flu Hotline number as another source of the latest COVID vaccination news.

“We will keep everyone in the loop,” Clay said. “We will put out information in every possible way.”

She also said that the Health Department will be looking for volunteers to assist with the public vaccination program, including people who are not medical professionals.

Still, Clay said that she does not anticipate the state eliminating the mask mandate any time soon.

The Town’s Emergency Management Director Tom Walsh said that teachers and other school staff are being offered weekly COVID tests. He said that the first week 110 were tested and four were positive. The second week, 118 were tested and there were four positives.

Walsh said that various supplies and equipment that will be needed for the public vaccine rollout have either been received or have been ordered, including freezers for storing the vaccine at the proper temperature.

Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio noted that the public vaccination effort will be “quite an undertaking” but noted that the Health Department has a great track record of running flu clinics.

Asked how the two-dose protocol will be handled, Clay said that the entire system will be paperless, with software sending out reminders for residents to schedule appointments for their first and second shots. Those without access to a computer will be notified by phone or other means.

Clay said that there will be no charge for the COVID vaccinations. Health insurance cards will be requested for those with insurance, but no one will be refused vaccine, she said.

She also said that plans will be in place to make sure that not a single dose of vaccine is wasted.

In addition to the local vaccination effort, the state will be offering four regional public vaccination sites, Clay said. The northeast regional site will be in Topsfield.

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