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Last county vaccine site serves up shots and lottery tickets

  • Lisa White administers doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Sunday. White is a regional public health nurse with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. For the Recorder/Ella Adams

  • Run by the Hawlemont Emergency Dispensing Site Team and Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Sunday offered the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and served as the last of Franklin County’s many emergency dispensing sites offered during the pandemic. For the Recorder/Ella Adams

  • Volunteers, from left, Barbara Wroblewski, Sheila Litchfield and Tracy Rogers, prepare to welcome individuals coming to receive their vaccination at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Sunday. For the Recorder/Ella Adams

  • The Hawlemont Emergency Dispensing Site team held a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Sunday. For the Recorder/Ella Adams

For the Recorder
Published: 6/13/2021 7:14:56 PM

CHARLEMONT — Run by the Hawlemont Emergency Dispensing Site team and Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Sunday offered the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and served as the last of Franklin County’s many emergency dispensing sites offered during the pandemic.

Available from 10 a.m. until noon, the clinic was run by over 20 volunteers and FRCOG staff, giving them “one more opportunity to vaccinate people as close to their communities as possible,” according to Sheila Litchfield, nurse and incident commander for Hawlemont EDS.

Litchfield has been working with Hawlemont EDS for years and has been involved in many of their flu clinics. While only about 20 individuals registered for the clinic on Sunday, Litchfield said their readiness allowed for them to be prepared for hundreds of people to show up. The first 50 to be vaccinated received a lottery ticket, of which they had leftovers resulting from the low turnout.

“We are hoping this means people have already been vaccinated,” she remarked, noting that the response they have received from community members has been overwhelmingly positive. “If we get any vaccine into anybody’s arm, that’s the right thing.”

Once individuals were vaccinated, they were handed fliers that would allow them to scan a QR code and register for V-Safe — a program run through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that checks in on individuals via text and survey once they’ve received their COVID-19 vaccination. That data then helps the CDC gather more information about side effects.

Along with the clinic at the Charlemont Fairgrounds, the EDS team held one at Mohawk Trail Regional School and one at Berkshire East. A total of 28 COVID-19 vaccination clinics have been held by the EDS team in all of Franklin County, at which Lisa White, regional public health nurse with FRCOG, and Tracy Rogers, emergency preparedness program manager at FRCOG, have been present almost entirely.

On Sunday, while White was busy working with multi-dose vials of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, she reflected on the trajectory of Franklin County’s vaccinations.

“In the beginning, people were so anxious to get their vaccine,” she said. “Even up until May, we were doing clinics up to 800 at the Greenfield Community College drive-thru … and then it just dropped.”

It’s been a team effort throughout the entire process, White said, whether that be at one of the 28 vaccination clinics where White was present or at one of the 50 home visits she has done throughout the pandemic.

The regional collaborative came to be when the state Department of Public Health noticed the opportunity Franklin County was presenting for so many people to get vaccinated.

“I really think we’ve done the job,” White continued, championing the EDS structure that she believes, and has seen, really works. She thinks community members appreciate “a familiar face, familiar place, and the convenience of it” when choosing to get a vaccine at one of these sites, especially when considering that Massachusetts state-level clinics were not entirely accessible to Franklin County communities.

A lesson in accessibility seems to have surfaced. According to Barbara Wroblewski, a volunteer at these clinics with a background in nursing informatics, the system that the state of Massachusetts invested in to keep track of vaccinations is missing the mark, to some degree.

Called PrepMod, said system registers and documents vaccine distribution through internet- and email-based practices. All of the vaccines administered on a given day are put into the database, allowing health care providers to see vaccination levels and public health records.

While she said the system was planned so as not to waste the vaccine, Wroblewski also believes that there is a flaw in an internet-based system in a place like Franklin County: accessibility. She hopes that this situation highlights the issue of accessibility when it comes to technology in Franklin County, where a significant number of residents live without service, or the ability to get online at any given moment.

“Even given these challenges,” she said, “we still vaccinated over 10,000 people.”


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