Northampton’s vaccination site flooded with calls, inoculating 1,200 people a week

Staff Writer
Published: 2/9/2021 7:30:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — So many people are calling up looking for information on the COVID-19 vaccine that the local health department has hired 10 people in the last week to answer the phones.

“We are getting calls by the thousands,” Public Health Director Merridith O’Leary said Tuesday. “Much of the eligible population, which is 75 and older right now, really aren’t online.”

The vaccination site in the city, which is open to those who live or work in Hampshire County, is now vaccinating 1,200 people a week, according to O’Leary.

Those eligible for a vaccine under state guidelines can sign up online, or people can call (413) 587-1219 for assistance.

O’Leary said she has asked other communities to also set up hotlines.

“We need people in the community helping their residents,” she said.

Her other message: “If you know of someone — a loved one, a friend, a neighbor who is 75 and older who hasn’t received their vaccine, talk to them. Help them get registered.

“We have appointments available. We have vaccine available. We don’t have as much as we would like,” she said, but “we have open slots this entire week that are not filled up.”

Vaccinations are by appointment only, O’Leary said. But some have been coming without an appointment at the end of the clinic, hoping there will be vaccines left over.

Although there have been news stories of people getting vaccinated this way in other places, such as Los Angeles, and stories about vaccines that have been thrown away in places like New York, this is not happening in Northampton, according to O’Leary.

“People are showing up at the end of our clinics,” she said. “To turn them away, it’s heartbreaking. We want to get a vaccine in everyone’s arms. But we only have X amount every day.” Without an appointment, she said, “please don’t show up.”

O’Leary said they have a waitlist in the event they have more doses. “We have not thrown away one vaccine, nor will we.”

How to get help signing up

Information is available for those eligible for a vaccine under the state guidelines — all who are in Phase 1 and anyone 75 or older — who want to sign up for a vaccination over the phone rather than online.

Amherst has its vaccine website at: For help signing up for the Amherst clinic, which serves those in eastern Hampshire County, Angela Mills, the town manager’s executive assistant, said people should contact their town’s senior center or council on aging.

“If they are age 65 or older, that’s their best bet,” she said.

Those eligible in Hampshire County can signup online for the Northampton clinic on the health department’s website. Residents can call (413) 587-1219 for assistance in signing up.

In Easthampton, residents can call the Council on Aging at (413) 527-6151 or the Health Department at (413) 529-1430, according to Bri Eichstaedt, the city’s health agent.

“They’ve been able to keep up,” Eichstaedt said. “We are not staffed 24/7 like a hotline may be … (so) leave a message and we’ll call you back ASAP.”

Hadley’s Health Department website instructs people who need help over the phone to call 211.

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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