Updated Feb. 16
Healthcare officials across the Island fielded questions from the Island community on a Zoom call Friday, during a community forum to discuss the Island’s vaccine rollout. Officials are directing those eligible to receive a vaccine to the hospital’s website.
There were 195 people who asked more than 90 questions during the hourlong forum that was held in both English and Portuguese, and hosted by the Dukes County government. The forum is the first of a series planned.
Several questioners during the forum asked about the Patient Gateway email sent to patients, stating Mass General Brigham was suspending its vaccine program. That email does not apply to those on Martha’s Vineyard.
Massachusetts is currently in phase two of its vaccine rollout plan. The hospital, which is a state-designated vaccination site, is running the show for administering doses to eligible individuals.
In order to simplify and streamline sign-up for COVID-19 vaccines, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has set up a sign-up page on its website for nonhospital patients.
Currently the only individuals eligible for vaccines in phase two are those 75 and older. Hospital patients who use Patient Gateway will be contacted through it. Hospital patients who don’t use Patient Gateway will receive a call from Mass General Brigham, and will be notified of their eligibility and provided an appointment.
Individuals who are not patients of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital should monitor when they are eligible for a vaccine. When eligible, complete the sign-up form on the hospital’s website or the attestation form on the state’s website — they are the same form. The attestation form can also be completed in person; it’s available for pickup and drop-off at the hospital. Those who submit an attestation form will then be notified by the hospital by email or phone.
There are four eligibility groups in phase two. The first and current cohort are those aged 75 and older.
After the 75-and-older group, eligible community members will need to complete the hospital’s form on its website. Those will include individuals aged 65 and older, and individuals with two or more comorbidities. After that, workers in early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public healthcare workers will be eligible. The last group of phase two will be individuals with one underlying medical condition.
The hospital is using the honor system for vaccine sign-ups for status as an Island resident and eligibility.
The forum included several healthcare officials sharing facts about the vaccine.
Claire Seguin, chief nurse and chief operating officer at MVH, provided “fast facts” on the vaccine, for instance, individuals can’t catch COVID-19 from the vaccine, and mRNA does not alter your DNA. She added that those who have had COVID should still get vaccinated.
Hospital infection preventionist Gabriel Garcia also stressed the importance of wearing a mask. He demonstrated proper mask wearing, which includes wearing a mask that covers the mouth, nose, and chin. He said there are a lot of community members walking around with no symptoms, but who might test positive for COVID. “This is why it’s so important to continue social distancing,” Garcia said.
The forum also featured Island Healthcare CEO Cynthia Mitchell, who said all IHC patients are being directed to the hospital to sign up for vaccines.
There are two vaccines offered by the hospital. Individuals do not have the option of choosing between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. If getting a Pfizer vaccine, the wait period between doses is 21 days. For the Moderna vaccine, it’s 28 days.
The hospital is not accepting the “companion appointments” announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday. That program allows a caregiver to get vaccinated, regardless of age, if accompanying an individual 75 and older to a vaccine appointment. Companion appointments are only available at state-designated mass vaccination sites, such as Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is not a mass vaccination site, and does not have enough vaccine doses to do the companion program.
“I wish we could, and it seems silly that we can’t, but it’s all about the supply, and we don’t have enough,” hospital CEO Denise Schepici said of the companion appointments.
Seguin also said that once the hospital finishes vaccinating the 75-and-older group, they can’t begin vaccinating the 65-and-older group until the state gives clearance to do so.
Once the hospital has enough vaccines, the facility has enough staff and resources to administer up to 500 vaccines a day.
Vaccine appointments are being made on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Schepici. “We just go down our list, basically. As soon as that opens up, you’ll want to register, and you’ll get an appointment,” Schepici said. “But your appointment might be a week out, or the next day. We don’t want people waiting out in the cold.”
As people come to the hospital, officials are requesting individuals come at their appointment time, not early, to prevent long lines in the waiting room.
Updated to clarify vaccine sign-up for 65-and-older cohort. —Ed.