First seniors get their COVID shots

Feb 17, 2021 by

Published February 17, 2021

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD – Good things come to those who wait.

After several weeks in the making, the town held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for senior citizens in the Lynnfield Middle School gymnasium on Saturday, Feb. 13. Ninety seniors age 75 and older received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine during the clinic.

VINCENT MIRISOLA and his mother Lena were thrilled that she got her first COVID-19 vaccine injection during a clinic held in the Lynnfield Middle School gym on Feb. 13. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

“We are happy to be offering this clinic,” said Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director Glenn Davis. “We worked really hard over the past few weeks to obtain doses of the vaccine from the state. We worked with local surrounding communities as part of a collaborative effort in order to get them. We were finally successful with getting a 100 doses. It’s a small number, but we are happy to get 90 seniors in Lynnfield protected with their dose.”

Interim Police Chief Nick Secatore agreed.

“It’s exciting to have a clinic here,” said Secatore. “It is a wonderful opportunity and a great service to the community.”

While Deputy Fire Chief Jim Wallace said the town was given 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine, he said first responders discovered that sometimes only nine doses can be used out in a 10-dose vile.

“We have to be very careful, so we put a call out for 90 doses of the vaccine that way if somebody came and couldn’t get one, we didn’t want them to leave disappointed,” said Wallace.

Seniors were required to register for the clinic two days before it was held. Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin and a group of Senior Center employees checked people in before their scheduled appointments. The school system’s nurses administered the vaccine to the 90 lucky seniors, one of which was a 102-year-old woman.

“It went very smoothly,” said Wallace. “The townspeople were very appreciative of the service we provided.”

After seniors received their first injection, they were required to wait in the gym in the event they had a reaction to the vaccine. Seniors, who sat 6-feet apart in chairs, were required to wait for 15 minutes if they did not have any underlying health conditions. Seniors who had underlying health conditions had to wait for 30 minutes before leaving.

“We wanted to make sure our seniors didn’t have a reaction,” said Wallace.

Former selectman, assistant fire chief and current Historical Commission member Bob MacKendrick was one of the seniors who got vaccinated at the clinic.

“When I saw the town was going to have the clinic at the middle school, I thought it was great because I know the firefighters and I trust them,” said MacKendrick. “It felt good because nowadays all of the needles are very fine. It wasn’t like the old days where it felt like they stuck a fire hose in you. I had no reaction and I thought the process was well organized.”

Davis said the seniors who received their first vaccination injection last Saturday will get their second dose in four weeks. He said the Emergency Management Team worked with the Senior Center, Lynnfield Initiative of Elders (L.I.F.E.) Executive Director David Mayerson and Housing Authority Executive Director Dan MacIntyre in order to inform seniors about the clinic.

“Dave and Dan both reached out to their residents to help us find people to get vaccinated,” said Davis.

Lynnfield Public Schools Nursing Coordinator Mary Homan, who is also Lynnfield High’s nurse, said the district’s team of nurses was honored to administer the vaccine to local seniors.

“We partnered with the Fire Department to coordinate this clinic just like the one we did with first responders,” said Homan. “The nurses are committed to doing future clinics as well. It has been a great collaborative effort. Chief Davis has done a remarkable job getting the vaccine for Lynnfield because that has been the big barrier. Our team has been phenomenal. All of the nurses wanted to help out and be part of the clinic.”

School COVID-19 Liaison Toni Rebelo concurred with Homan’s point of view.

“We have been preparing for this clinic for a long time,” said Rebelo. “This is a very happy and exciting day for us. It has been a major priority for us to bring clinics to the local level in order to make the vaccine more accessible for the town’s elderly population. We are ecstatic that we were able to do this for the community.”

While the state’s large vaccination sites have experienced long lines that forced some seniors to stand outside in the cold, local seniors did not experience those conditions last Saturday.

Davis acknowledged getting vaccine doses from the state has been “challenging.”

“The target seems to change every week,” said Davis. “The process to request vaccines is done online, and it is done community-by-community. There are 351 communities in the state all trying to get their doses as well as all of the large vaccination sites that the state is trying to channel the doses to. The DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium are getting thousands of doses for thousands of people. It’s an efficient way to do it, but a lot of our seniors can’t find a way to get to Gillette Stadium. Being able to offer this in Lynnfield is a great opportunity for our seniors.”

Wallace concurred with Davis’ viewpoint.

“I have noticed when the governor speaks that he keeps directing people to the mega sites, and not the local clinics in cities and towns,” said Wallace. “We have been trying to put on a vaccine clinic, but we just haven’t been able to get the doses that were requested until now.”

Wallace also noted that the town placed an order for more vaccine doses last week so another clinic could be held, but he said the state “declined” the town’s offer.

“When we ask for the second dose for people over 75, we should get those,” said Wallace.

Town Administrator Rob Dolan noted that Senior Center employees and local librarians helped seniors register for last Saturday’s clinic. He also said Senior Center and Lynnfield Library staff have helped seniors navigate the state’s “complex” vaccination registration system that has “overwhelmed many people.” He said the school system’s nurses were “awesome” with helping seniors feel at ease while receiving their first dose.

“We are doing what we can to help people,” said Dolan. “We are going to take care of our people.”

Davis said the town is trying to figure out when future clinics will be held, but that date has yet to be determined.

“As of right now, the only people who are eligible to receive a dose is everyone in Phase 1, which includes health care workers, first responders and people age 75 and older,” said Davis. “The next age group will be people who are 65 and older or people with two or more comorbidities. But that hasn’t been announced yet.”

A number of officials in attendance thanked Davis for organizing the clinic, which has been a major priority of the fire chief’s over the last several months.

“The Emergency Management Team has worked very hard to make this happen, especially Chief Davis,” said Secatore. “He has taken on extra roles to ensure this clinic took place today and people did not have to wait another week. Everyone was very grateful for his efforts.”

Rebelo concurred with Secatore’s viewpoint.

“Chief Davis and Deputy Chief Wallace have been committed to doing this since day one, and we wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for their efforts,” said Rebelo.

Wallace also thanked Firefighter/EMT Steven Groussis for creating the software that was used to put the clinic together.

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