Vaccination clinic to run weekly at Athol Senior Center

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 2/26/2021 3:49:58 PM
Modified: 2/26/2021 3:49:56 PM

ATHOL — Health Agent Deb Vondal told Board of Health Tuesday that the number Athol’s COVID cases continue to move in the right direction.

“As of today,” said Vondal, “we’ve had 528 cases to date; 504 have been cleared. So, we currently have 24 active cases. This is great, because as of last Thursday we had 42 cases. Prior to Thursday, or numbers had been in the 40s. So, this is good news.

“We’re also designated as ‘yellow’ for the fourth week in a row. This essentially means there is moderate risk of community transmission.”

Vondal did note the town’s positivity rate ticked up slightly.

“Maybe next week we’ll be ‘green.’ We’ve had a lot cases cleared, but not many new ones coming in. So, that’s all good news.

“Let’s hope it stays that way, but that’s the trend across the state and across the nation.”

Vaccination clinics

She then moved on to the topic that has been generating the most calls to her office as of late.

“It’s what people call us about all the time: vaccination clinics,” she said. “When are we going to have one, the trouble that people are having traveling to some of the Mass. sites, how to get appointments.

“We have been diligently working to establish Athol as a vaccination site. Finally, from the state, we received a link for a survey, and the survey is a vehicle to request vaccine. That was on Feb. 9, so I submitted an order. At the end of the week we were denied. And the reason was the commonwealth does not have sufficient supply of vaccine to fulfill all requests.”

Vondal said she followed up with another request the following week — on Feb. 16 — and was again denied.

“Now we all know the reason,” she continued. “The very next day, Feb. 17, the governor came out with the announcement that as of March 1, most municipalities would not be receiving vaccines. That due to the limited amount and the need to vaccinate so many people, a lot of the vaccine is being diverted to all of those Mass. vaccination sites, like Gillette, Fenway, Eastfield Mall down in Springfield.

“They’re also sending them to the pharmacies. However, there are no pharmacies around here that have the vaccine. The closest is either Greenfield or Gardner. So, essentially the governor pulled the rug out from under not only us but of many other boards of health.”

Vondal then explained that Athol is undertaking a partnership with Heywood Healthcare, which operates Heywood and Athol hospitals.

“It’s a pretty sure bet that we will be having, essentially, like a satellite clinic site at the senor center. I wish I could give more details, but the vaccine task force in the town has really worked hard.

“We’re ready to go whenever we can receive vaccines. Details should be forthcoming on that soon, but at this point I can’t release anything else.”

Two days after Vondal’s comments to the board, Town Manager Shaun Suhoski announced the town was accepting registration to receive the vaccine. Appointments can be made by telephone only at 978-249-3849.

In a statement, Suhoski said, “Two hundred doses of the Pfizer vaccine were allocated to the Athol site in partnership with Heywood Healthcare and will be administered at the Athol Senior Center, 82 Freedom St., between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, March 1, for persons eligible for the vaccine. The clinic will run weekly subject to a continued supply of vaccine.

“Persons eligible for appointments include anyone eligible under Phase 1, and those currently eligible under Phase 2 including, individuals age 65-plus, individuals with two or more certain medical conditions and residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing.”

The statement said the clinic would held weekly until supplies of the vaccine are exhausted.

Board member Joan Hamlett emphasized that receiving a vaccination doesn’t mean people can let down their guard.

“It’s important to understand that a vaccination does not mean COVID protocols go out the window. It takes 30 to 60 days after your second vaccination to be fully effective in somebody’s body. And there’s nothing to say it prevents in 100 percent.

“You still need to keep COVID protocols in place along with the vaccine.”

Those protocols include wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and attention to hand-washing.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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