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FRCOG’s Phoebe Walker named to governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group


Staff Writer
Published: 10/16/2020 3:42:01 PM

Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ Director of Community Services Phoebe Walker will work on Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group alongside 16 others from across the state to advance efforts to prepare for the distribution of a vaccine when it becomes available.

Comprised of medical professionals, public health experts, elected officials, community leaders and infectious disease specialists, the group will advise the governor and his administration — including the Department of Public Health and COVID-19 Command Center — on communication, distribution and equity issues relating to a vaccine.

“I am deeply honored to have been asked to serve on the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group,” Walker said. “The members bring an enormous wealth of experience and expertise to the task of advising the hard-working staff at the Command Center and the infectious disease, vaccination, local health and emergency preparedness programs at the state DPH as they develop the plan for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts.”

Personally, Walker said she brings to the group her decades of experience working with local government and local public health systems, as well as the perspective of Western Massachusetts and what she has learned from sitting on the board of the Community Health Center of Franklin County and the Community Benefits Advisory Council for Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Walker said there is national guidance, and the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group is tasked with providing advice on how to implement it in Massachusetts, including how to make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably given the “stark inequities in COVID’s impact.”

“We’ll be advising the state on who is most harmed by COVID-19 and how to protect them most quickly,” Walker said. “We’ll be looking at how to prioritize who gets vaccinated first.”

Over the past 10 years, the state has invested in an Immunization Information System serving as its registry, ordering system and inventory mechanism. More than 3,000 provider sites currently report data to the system, and the Department of Public Health is on board with an additional 1,000 clinical sites to enhance distribution and tracking of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Walker said the group has only met once so far, receiving an overview from the state regarding what kind of a plan it is developing so that when it is time, it can distribute the vaccine. The state has been working on preparedness and planning for a COVID-19 vaccine since early August.

“We got to know each other during the first meeting,” she explained. “We will meet every week for two hours, and we’ll have homework — things we’ll need to read.”

Many of the group’s members who have training in vaccines, medicine and infectious disease will help the remaining members understand about the efficacy of different vaccines, the number of vaccines people have to take and how to store them, she said.

“This is an amazing group,” Walker said. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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