Updated 6:30 pm
Martha’s Vineyard individuals aged 65 and older and those with two or more chronic health conditions, including asthma, will be eligible to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments beginning this Saturday, Feb. 20.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference Wednesday evening, Hospital president and Chief executive officer Denise Schepici and chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin said appointment booking for the new group would open on the hospital website “Saturday morning” with appointments available on Monday Feb. 22. No exact time for when booking would open on Saturday.
Individuals will not be notified via Patient Gateway and need sign up through the hospital’s website.
Eligible individuals can follow these steps:
- Go to hospital website at mvhospital.org/patients_and_visitor/covid-19-updates
- Click the “COVID Vaccine Open Scheduling” link on the webpage.
- Confirm your eligibility by selecting “yes” after you attest that you belong to a current priority group.
- If you are eligible, select “Martha’s Vineyard Hospital” as a location.
- Schedule your appointment during an available time slot.
- Review information to ensure it is correct and then select “schedule it.”
Schepici and Seguin stressed people would need to be patient to get an appointment.
“Due to extremely high demand for appointments and limited vaccine supply it could take more than a month for all eligible individuals to receive an appointment,” Seguin said. “This is all dependent on the supply from the federal government.”
Appointments will be added on a rolling basis, so eligible individuals will have to keep checking the website for available appointments. Appointments will be able to be made one week in advance as the hospital learns how many doses it gets each week.
“We are dependent on the supply of the vaccine we receive,” Schepici said. “We ask for everyone’s patience in the process. This is encouraging news as the state is moving into the next phase of vaccine delivery.”
People will have to keep checking the website for available appointments.
“It’s very much like the Steamship Authority opening. It’s a rolling sign up process so as people cancel or move or we can add we will refresh,” Seguin said.
The new sign up process is fewer steps and allows community members to pick their appointments, according to Seguin.
“Not everyone is going to get an appointment on day one so we ask everyone for patience,” Schepici. “The appointments are all going to depend on the supply. Don’t get frustrated we’re hoping to get to everybody as soon as we can, but please please please it won’t all be in the first week. It’s going to take us a few weeks to get through this one.”
There are two vaccines offered by the hospital. Individuals do not have the option of choosing between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. If getting the Pfizer vaccine, the wait period between doses is 21 days. For the Moderna vaccine, it’s 28 days.
Schepici said when the vaccine becomes effective is different for each person after they get their second dose, but a vaccinated person can still be a carrier for the virus.
Vaccine sign up will be first come first served. Hospital officials are not worried about the potential for high volume traffic to the website.
The hospital plans to vaccinate 1,800 individuals next week—a combination of people getting dose one and dose two of the vaccine.
Seguin said it is preferable and the fastest way to get a vaccine appointment by using the hospital website.
At a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said the two new groups of eligible individuals represent more than 1 million people in Massachusetts, but that rollout may be slow.
“Unless we see a massive increase in shipments from the feds, it will take us at least a month for people in these new groups to be able to book their first vaccine appointment,” Baker said.
The Centers for Disease Control adopted a list of conditions of medical conditions with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19: asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised state, obesity and severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, and type 2 diabetes.
Beginning with the 65-and-older and two-or-more-comorbidity groups, community members on Martha’s Vineyard will need to complete the hospital’s form on its website to sign up to receive a vaccine.
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.
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.
On Friday, healthcare officials and the Dukes County government held a vaccine forum to inform the community about Island vaccine rollout.
Claire Seguin 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.
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.
Last week, Baker told reporters the state heard “disturbing reports” of individuals trying to take advantage of the companion appointments system that allows people 74 and younger to get vaccinated if accompanying a senior to an appointment.
Baker announced on Wednesday the state was permitting the companion appointments at the state’s four mass vaccination sites off-Island, but since then, people have been heading online to post ads seeking a senior to bring to a vaccination appointment, and in some cases offering seniors money to do it.
“If you’re 75 years or older, and you need assistance going through the vaccination process, you should only reach out to somebody that you know or trust to bring as your companion, whether that’s a child, a companion, a spouse, a neighbor or caregiver,” Baker said. “Don’t take calls or offers from people you don’t know well or trust, and never share your personal information with anyone. If you’re contacted by somebody soliciting to take you to a site, please report it to the authorities.”
The hospital is not accepting the “companion appointments” announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday. 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,” Schepici said of the companion appointments.
As the state expands eligibility for vaccines, newly confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and seven-day positivity rates continue to go down.
On Tuesday, there were 967 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state’s seven-day average of percent positivity continues to drop, and is now at 2.22 percent — a steep decline from 8 percent high in early January. There are an estimated 42,395 active cases statewide. There were 49 new deaths, for a total of 15,257 COVID-19 deaths since March.
The state also surpassed 1 million vaccines adminstered to individuals in Massachusetts, with 1.5 million vaccines shipped across the state.
There five new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday—four from the hospital and one from TestMV.
The hospital has conducted 13,402 tests for COVID-19 since March. Of those, 640 have tested positive, 12,755 negative, and seven are pending results.
There is one patient hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the hospital’s website.
As of Friday, TestMV has conducted 33,029 tests since June. Of those, 251 have tested positive, 31,893 negative, and 885 are pending results.
The town of Aquinnah has conducted 418 tests, of which one has come back positive, 415 negative and two pending results.
The Martha’s Vineyard public schools have tested 4,339 individuals. Of those three have tested positive. The public school data is updated once a week.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has reported a total of seven positive cases of COVID-19.
Due to how tests are conducted, there can be a discrepancy between the number of positive individuals and the number of positive tests reported.
The vast majority of COVID-19 cases have been reported since the end of October, when the Island’s first cluster of cases was linked to a wedding in October. Since then, the Island has seen 815 cases of COVID-19 — several times the 89 cases reported on the Island between when testing began in March and mid-October.
In addition to the wedding cluster, which reported eight cases, clusters at Cronig’s Market, with 19 cases, and a Bible study group, with 11 cases, have also been reported.
New clusters were reported last week, with a five-case cluster at the hospital, and a four-case cluster at Project Headway.
Updated with information on booking appointments at MVH — Ed.