Williamsburg backs off having drive-thru vaccinations

  • Stickers on hand at the Bangs Community Center in Amherst where first responders were receiving their first COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2021 8:27:35 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — The town is shelving plans for a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site, in favor of sending residents to the vaccination site at the Northampton Senior Center through Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine rollout.

“We’re not going to do them locally at this point,” said Donna Gibson, chair of the Williamsburg Board of Health.

But both Northampton and Amherst, home to Hampshire county’s two regional vaccination sites, have been hit hard by a reduction in vaccine allotments for local health departments.

“We’ve been cut off at the knees,” said Merridith O’Leary, Northampton’s public health director.

Northampton was gearing up to start vaccinating 1,200 people a week, as was Amherst. However, this week the state announced that each site would be receiving only enough vaccine for 100 new vaccinations a week.

“This is a shame,” she said.

O’Leary noted that both Northampton and Amherst’s sites are open to anyone living in Hampshire County. However, she said that there are a large number of people on Northampton’s waiting list, and recommended that people get on multiple waiting lists to get the vaccine.

O’Leary also speculated that these allocations may have been decided due to ignorance of the geography of western Massachusetts on the state level.

Those eligible for vaccination in Phase 1 of the state’s vaccine roll out can sign up at northamptonma.gov/vaccineclinic, and those having issues signing up online can call 413-587-1219.

So far, Northampton has vaccinated 700 people.

Williamsburg was planning on establishing a drive-thru vaccination clinic to serve residents of the town and Goshen. But Gibson said that those plans have been shelved for Phase 2, noting that Williamsburg has not been designated as a site for vaccinations at this time.

“The requirements for freezer storage is extremely difficult,” she said. “We don’t have that capability.”

Gibson also said that she hopes the vaccine supply for the state will increase.

“It’s still evolving and it changes from day to day,” she said.

Currently the state is in Phase 1 of the rollout, with Phase 2 set to start Monday, Feb. 1. Those eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1 include first responders and home-based health care workers, while those who will be eligible in Phase 2 include those 75 and over and grocery store workers.

Phase 3, which is set to begin in April, will open vaccination eligibility to all people. It is also the phase where Williamsburg might revisit its drive-thru vaccination plans.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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