Gov. Charlie Baker was the most recent elected official to tour the La Colaborativa/East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) vaccination site last Thursday, April 1, where he held his COVID press briefing and announced a mobile vaccination program for Chelsea.
Gov. Baker toured the 6th Street Food Pantry with Health Secretary Marylou Sudders and other elected officials before coming to the vaccination site on Broadway to see the operations and give the weekly press briefing.
There, he announced that due to the partnership with the federal FEMA program at the Hynes Convention Center mass vaccination site – announced last week – they would be able to stand up mobile units that would come to Chelsea, Revere, Boston, Fall River and New Bedford.
“Our collaboration with the feds gives us the chance to create a hub and spoke model which means a portion of the vaccine we get from that central hub can be distributed to mobile vaccination units in nearby communities and pop-up clinics with a focus on vaccine equity,” he said. “Starting next week we’ll be working with local communities to launch mobile vaccination clinics in Chelsea, Revere, Boston, Fall River and New Bedford…These cities were selected based on the CDC’s special mobility index and their proximity to the Hynes. The effort will ramp up but we’ll be able to do 500 vaccines per day in these communities.”
As part of that program, which began this week in Chelsea, the mobile units would pick up the vaccine at the Hynes and then come to Chelsea and set up in a park or parking lot for easy access.
That program is expected to last about eight weeks.
Sec. Sudders announced that Chelsea would get $150,000 as part of the BEST Value grant program that is awarding $4.7 million statewide. That money will be used however Chelsea deems it necessary, though it must be used for programming that would further the vaccination efforts.
Meanwhile, she also announced that the 20 COVID equity communities – including Chelsea – will see more than 200 grass-roots organizers hitting the streets to spread awareness and information about vaccination.
“Starting next week more than 200 bi-lingual, locally-hired community organizers will hold 83 outreach events in all 20 of out equity communities,” said Sudders. “There will be door-to-door outreach and business walks. It’s like a political campaign that’s vaccine canvassing. We’ll also support phone banking efforts to help with vaccine registrations.”
EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes indicated that the Chelsea vaccination site would now be able to open seven days a week, and some of the sites operated by EBNHC would also be open 12 hours a day – all furthering the mission of helping people on their vaccine journey.
“Today I’m happy to announce we will expand our efforts at this Chelsea location and at all our locations,” he said. “We will begin operating seven days a week and at some locations 12 hours a day. Although we’re acting as fast as we can, I’d like to take this opportunity to preach patience. Everyone has their own vaccine journey. For some, it will take time and especially in communities like Chelsea where distrust is widespread. Vaccinations in Chelsea isn’t just about ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ it’s about facts, feelings, frustration, family, finances and of course, about fair. Addressing these barriers is what we have in front of us.”
La Colaborativa Director Gladys Vega used the opportunity to call for young people in Chelsea and the Latino community to get vaccinated and protect loved ones.
“I ask those between the ages of 20 and 35 to please make a decision on vaccinating,” she said. “We’ve been doing door knocking and that’s been our biggest challenge – convincing individuals that are 35 and under. They don’t believe in the vaccination, but they believe in parties and having gatherings. I urge you to make that choice and if you’re not able to make that choice, make it for the family member – the grandmother that wants to give you a hug. Do it for the sake of others. This is not a joke. You’ve seen the numbers. You’ve seen how many families have lost loved ones…Don’t be afraid of the vaccination; be afraid of COVID-19 that has taken so many lives away from us.”
•Chelsea Getting Shorted by the Feds
Gov. Baker and others also touched on the news over the last three weeks with Chelsea getting much less than expected in the federal Rescue Plan last month – much less than more affluent communities, in fact.
He thanked Sen. Sal DiDomenico for his advocacy on the matter, and reiterated they had directed $100 million to Chelsea and three other communities to try to make up for the shortfall that got past the federal delegation.
“Just this month we worked with local leaders to make sure Chelsea got the funds it deserved from the federal relief package,” said the governor. “As many know, the federal bill passed had restrictions that severely limited dollars that would have gone to some communities hardest hit by COVID, including Chelsea and Everett – both of which are in Sen. Sal DiDomenico’s district.
“So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first person I heard from at the state level after having conversations with folks at the federal level was Sen. DiDomenico,” he continued. “We very much appreciate the relationship and also the head’s up on that issue.”
Vega said the governor visiting was a dream come true, and thanked him for his quick action on the federal shorting of the City.
“It’s a dream come true to have the governor here; it’s incredible we have his whole team here,” she said. “It’s also incredible he responded to the call for funding. For me I was extremely appalled we didn’t get much funding two weeks ago and when we called the governor’s office and organized – he responded to our call…People kept saying we wouldn’t hear from the governor’s office for about a month, but you responded in days…It’s an incredible day for Chelsea. It’s hopeful because we now have resources to work with.”