With a dearth of access to the COVID-19 vaccine in Charlestown for those 75 and older, one of the major providers in the neighborhood announced – along with some other hospital networks – that it has suspended scheduling first dose appointments for the time being.
Mass General Brigham, the parent of MGH Charlestown, issued a statement to patients and staff late last week noting that it could no longer schedule appointments due to constraints with the vaccine supply.
“Because of vaccine supply constraints, we are no longer able to schedule first dose vaccine appointments for patients or employees,” read the announcement that was provided to the newspaper by an MGH spokesperson. “We have been assured by the state that we will receive enough vaccine to fulfill all first and second dose appointments that are already scheduled. As a result, we will administer vaccine to all employees and patients who are currently scheduled to receive their first or second dose. We continue to work closely with state officials to address this situation.”
A similar letter went out to Beth Israel Leahy patients and staff as well.
The state had apparently taken the measure to reduce supplies to hospitals on Feb. 11, and hospitals notified staff and patients the next day. The state has said it is taking away vaccine supply from hospitals and hospital networks in order to supply more vaccine to state-run mass vaccination sites. The state Department of Public Health (DPH) has said it requires distributions to be used at an 85 percent rate, and they’re looking for more information from hospitals on that. In order to vaccinate the public more quickly, those supplies are being sent to the state-run sites instead of hospital networks.
In Charlestown, that means that MGH Charlestown is likely not going to see any new vaccination appointments for the overall community – which now is only available to those over 75 and their caregivers.
Already, the only site offering vaccination to the community is NEW Health Charlestown and appointments are seeming hard to come by there. Community Health Centers are still receiving vaccine as part of the state’s plan to use them as a way to encourage vaccination.
A search of available appointments this week in Charlestown showed none available within the zip code. The closest appointments available were at the Reggie Lewis Center mass vaccination site, or at the Gillette Stadium mass vaccination site in Foxboro. The next closest appointments were in Lowell or Worcester.
“We would like to extend our deepest thanks to all that have worked so hard these past several months,” read the letter from MGH. “The efforts of our staff, those who have been redeployed as well as those who have volunteered, cannot be overstated.”
The vaccine redistribution from hospitals will apparently last at least two weeks and then be revisited.