Editorial: Hey, guv — what about us?

  • Lathrop Retirement Community Association President Jack Hjelt of Northampton watches Melissa Mattison, a pharmacist at Walgreens, dispose of the syringe she just used to give him a COVID-19 vaccination at the Lathrop community in Easthampton, Jan. 18. Gazette file photo

Published: 2/7/2021 6:00:06 PM

We’re about a month away from the year anniversary when COVID-19 took hold, sickening and killing so many and upending our lives in unimaginable ways. Now, people are anxiously waiting for a vaccine, herd immunity and hopefully a return to normalcy.

But here in western Mass., the supply is not satisfying the demand for vaccines, and like us, area legislators want action from the Baker-Polito administration to change that scenario.

After first responders and those in nursing homes were vaccinated in Phase 1, the next rollout began Feb. 1 for those 75 years and older, to be followed by ages 65 and older, and those with two serious medical conditions and those with one.

But as people who are eligible in Phase 2 and their caregivers have discovered, vaccine supplies are very limited and booking an appointment isn’t easy.

Thank goodness, 11 members of the western Mass. legislative delegation have stepped up with a letter they sent to Gov. Charlie Baker that calls on him to fix the lack of adequate access to vaccines for residents in this part of the state.

In their letter, legislators requested: a single user-friendly web portal for reservations, plus a phone option for those who don’t use the internet; mobile vaccine units for people with transportation issues; and support for senior centers to help with appointments. Most importantly, they ask for the creation of distribution centers that are adequately supplied with vaccine.

Since the pandemic hit, the finish line keeps getting pushed further away. We are in a bona fide health crisis that needs more than private pharmacies and the noble but small-scale efforts within our communities.

A plan needs to be in place when the vaccine is available to a much larger population.

Yes, the western part of the state has fewer people than the east, and if one looks at the map of COVID-19 cases, except for a few hot spots, it has had fewer cases and deaths. While many of our rural communities have sparse populations, we also note those who have been practicing the safety precautions the governor has been touting help to keep those numbers down.

Certainly, dealing with a pandemic this large has been unprecedented in modern history. But the state’s leaders knew a vaccine was coming for months. We would have hoped they had developed a better plan to accommodate all of the state’s residents.

Our region faced a similar problem regarding testing sites, with people waiting hours in line until the state established Stop the Spread sites.

We commend the legislators who acted as a team on behalf of their constituents — Sen. Jo Comerford, Sen. Adam Hinds, Rep. Paul Mark, Rep. Natalie Blais, Rep. Susannah Whipps, Sen. Eric Lesser, Sen. John Velis, Sen. Anne Gobi, Rep. Mindy Domb, Rep. Dan Carey and Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa.

We, along with them, await a response from the Baker-Polito administration.




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