Mobile Vaccination Efforts Underway As Mass Vaccination Sites Close

A mobile COVID-19 vaccination site, part of the "Taking It To The Streets" initiative by the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)
A mobile COVID-19 vaccination site, part of the "Taking It To The Streets" initiative by the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)

The need for pin-pointed vaccination efforts are eclipsing the need for mass vaccination sites in Massachusetts. Nothing illustrates this better than Gillette Stadium, the biggest mass vaccination site in the state, ceasing its pandemic-era functions while a concerted push for mobile vaccination grows.

Rodrigo Martinez, with CIC Health — the entity that managed the vaccine operation at Foxborough — said the work ending at Gillette is a positive milestone.

"We entered this with a lot of excitement, nervous, not really knowing how to do it," he said. "And we exit this with our spirits up and feel a complete success. Mission accomplished. For real this time."

Martinez said one of the most memorable experiences was seeing the number of vaccinations on the scoreboard. At its busiest, 7,000 people a day were getting vaccinated there.

"It was 100,000 then 200,000 then 300,000 then 500,000," Martinez said. "And by the time we close, we will have done a little over 610,000 vaccinations at Gillette Stadium."

In recent weeks, it's dwindled to around 500 people a day with a few walk-ins trickled down. But even though Gillette's lifespan as a mass vaccination site has come to a close, people can still get vaccinated there, said Kraft Sports  + Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan.

"If you come to a Revolution game this summer, you'll be able to get your vaccination on the concourse without missing a minute of the game," he said. "And if you come to Patriot training camp, you'll be able to get your vaccination and watch training while you're waiting out your 15 minutes of observation."

Nolan said they even have a mobile vaccination outfit. And that seems to be where the fight against COVID-19 is going — allocating resources to bring the vaccines to people who have been left out of the new normal.

If needed, Nolan and Martinez said Gillette could be reconfigured to become a mass vaccination site in about a day's time.

Saturday at Franklin Park marked the beginning of an initiative called "Taking It To The Streets" from the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition — it's a van with vaccination and testing capabilities. Cheryl Clyburn Crawford is with the coalition and said it's an extension of the phone banking, flyering, canvassing and other forms of outreach the group did during the pandemic.

"We've been following the numbers from the city and the state and the areas that have been most impacted by zip code — Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Roslindale," she said. "So we decided to focus our energies in that space and that's what we've been doing."

Clyburn Crawford said the biggest hurdle for Black and Brown communities has been access.


"When the cases started rising, they were saying it was Black and Brown people [being affected the most] and they opened up Gillette Stadium, we said you're going to have to come closer," she said. "There may be transportation barriers, there was some level of hesitancy, there may be a digital divide."

She credits the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury being a designated mass vaccination site that got more people vaccinated who might have had a hard time

Over in the tented observation area near the vaccine van was Wilma Clouden with her two granddaughters.

"They didn't want to, but I brought them anyway," she said. "Because when school starts, they will have to have the vaccine."

Clouden, who lives in Dorchester, pulled a flyer out of her pocket and said she found out about the mobile vaccine initiative because she saw the flyers all over the place and even spoke to a canvasser.

"Every place I go, they had these flyers on cars, plus they were passing them out at Grove Hall," she said. "I spoke to a guy who was passing them out."

Clouden's 12-year-old granddaughter Kaori Santiago said she was initially afraid to get the shot, but after getting a first dose of Pfizer, she said it wasn't so bad.

"I didn't know how it was going to feel after it, but I feel fine," she said.

The middle-schooler said the pandemic has been difficult since she wasn't able to go to school and see her friends and make new ones.

"But I've been dealing with it," Santiago said. She said she's "excited" the vaccine will allow her to go back to school in the fall.


Headshot of Quincy Walters

Quincy Walters Producer, WBUR Podcasts
Quincy Walters was a producer for WBUR Podcasts.



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