State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling on the Baker Administration to bolster vaccine availability and accessibility in the City of Methuen.
In a letter, sent to Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders on February 15, DiZoglio outlined the concerns she has heard from Methuen residents around lack of access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Last week, the City of Methuen received 100 doses of the vaccine. It was then informed it would receive no doses from the state this week. According to DiZoglio, her office was advised by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that the low dose number was the result of a federal vaccine shortage. However, the state continues to distribute significant numbers of doses to pharmacies across Massachusetts.
“The City put in great work and time to establish a vaccine distribution center, per the request of your Administration, that accommodates social distancing and long lines,” said DiZoglio in the letter. “Pharmacies do not have such space to ensure social distancing. The allocation makes no sense.”
DiZoglio argues the federal supply issue raised by DPH is not the issue – rather it is about “effective allocation between vaccine providers.”
“People, especially in the current vaccination group, should be able to conveniently turn to their local municipal provider,” said DiZoglio. “The mass vaccine sites that have been established can be physically difficult to get to and maneuver.”
In her letter, DiZoglio also raised questions and concerns over which specific vaccines have gone out and to whom. The vaccine produced by Pfizer requires a different type of freezer refrigeration than the vaccine by Moderna and its parts must be reconstituted prior to inoculation.
“Municipalities can store the Moderna vaccine but are generally unequipped to store the Pfizer, which hospitals and pharmacies are better equipped to store,” said DiZoglio. “To the extent allocations are made, the state must take this into account. It is critical that we know how much of each vaccine is going out and to whom.”
On February 12, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School gave the Commonwealth of Massachusetts an ‘F’ grade for its rollout, based on a ranking among all 50 states on key metrics, including vaccines distributed as a share of the adult population and as a share of the doses available to be delivered in the state.
“The City of Methuen is not alone in facing these significant challenges,” said DiZoglio. “Cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth have expressed frustration over the vaccine rollout, with legislators offering countless letters to the Governor’s Administration, many of which I have either written or signed on to. Our most vulnerable residents have been incredibly patient. It is beyond past time the Administration finally gets with the program, as so many other states have been able to do and provides our communities with the support they desperately need.”