We need to stop talking about the “rollout” of vaccines for COVID-19, at least in Massachusetts. Here, it’s been more of a head-scratching, snail’s pace crawl.
How can it be that we live in a place with the best schools, universities, and healthcare — a place where scientists and medical researchers have actually worked on developing the vaccines — and yet we’re failing miserably at getting shots into the arms of our citizens?
As a state, we are lagging behind every other New England state in the number of shots administered per capita, and West Virginia — West Virginia — is doing a much better job of getting shots out to its citizens, as are North Dakota and most every other state in the country.
As of Sunday, Massachusetts had vaccinated less than 6 percent of its citizens, while West Virginia — West Virginia — is close to 11 percent of its population vaccinated.
We’ve been supportive of Gov. Charlie Baker and how he’s handled the pandemic, but he has serious questions to answer about vaccine distribution, as does the state Department of Public Health. We understand that the federal government shares the blame, but what are we doing to fix it?
On the Island, we’ve also praised the work of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the Island boards of health, and other healthcare leaders. But when it comes to information about vaccines, they’ve all been disappointing. We know they can only move as quickly as the state in distributing the vaccine, but they could be more forthcoming with answers, both on their website and with the people who answer calls of the public.
There are lots of questions about the vaccine and availability, but few answers. When a hospital staffer suggested we consult a DPH chart describing phase two vaccine eligibility on the hospital’s site, that did nothing to answer the question everyone is asking: How and when can we expect to get vaccinated on the Island? If the hospital doesn’t yet have that information, they should tell us that, and let us know when they expect to know. As for the boards of health, the M.V. Boards of Health webpage hasn’t been updated since early on in the pandemic (if it’s not being used, say so at the top of the page), and local boards of health pages aren’t much better. On Monday, the hospital, which is the official site, finally updated its webpage with a few more important details, like the need to fill out an attestation form, which you can download from the DPH site, to determine eligibility. And on Wednesday — the day people were supposed to begin signing up — they finally started answering questions about what individuals should expect.
Sending individuals through a state website with no plan in place to get answers to the questions of people 75-plus is just a recipe for a disastrous effort that will have people chasing their tails and put us more hopelessly behind than we already are. Have we mentioned — West Virginia? We also fear that the hospital, being the only site on the Island, will become quickly overwhelmed, and it will take far too long to get our population vaccinated. Why aren’t the boards of health, who have done mass vaccination clinics for the flu, more actively involved?
The state has set up a central vaccination site at Gillette Stadium. That does little to help Islanders. The state is working with CVS, Walgreens, and some supermarkets to get vaccinations out to other areas of the state. That does nothing for Islanders. Who is working for us? Why is no one making sure that our independent pharmacies can play a role in the vaccine distribution, so the hospital as the lone site isn’t overwhelmed? And to whom can we even address these questions?
We need a leader on this and, unfortunately, this is another example of where our six separate town governments work against us.
On Nantucket, for example, Nantucket Cottage Hospital had vaccine information and a portal for their residents to sign up for shots — one hospital, one board of health — much quicker.
We need to regroup. We need to get more detailed information into the hands of Islanders. We need a detailed plan, and we need to start answering the many questions Islanders have about vaccines. We’re happy to do our part in getting the information out, but we need timely, detailed information to get that job done.