Franklin Regional Council of Governments to open one larger vaccination site; spoke clinics to close

  • Jenny Potee, public health nurse for New Salem, gives New Salem resident Lori Lunn a COVID-19 vaccine in the parking lot of Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange in February. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • Vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in South Deerfield. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2021 2:08:45 PM
Modified: 4/7/2021 2:08:41 PM

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) and its Cooperative Public Health Service have decided to close spoke COVID-19 vaccine clinics over the next few weeks and consolidate with Greenfield’s operations to open one larger clinic where all Franklin County residents can get vaccinated.

FRCOG Emergency Preparedness Program Manager Tracy Rogers explained that the intention of spoke clinics — which have been held throughout the county, such as at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange and Tree House Brewing in South Deerfield — was to bring vaccination sites closer to those who struggle to secure transportation. However, Rogers said the method has proved to be an inefficient use of limited resources while vaccine allocation remains low.

That being the case, FRCOG isn’t planning any additional spoke clinics. Rather, operations will be consolidated between FRCOG and Greenfield at a single vaccination site yet to be determined, Rogers said. Second-dose clinics will be completed at spoke sites over the next few weeks, and it’s possible that spoke clinics might resume in the future if there are enough vaccines coming to the area.

There is also greater access now for homebound patients needing a vaccine, and LifePath, the nonprofit serving the elderly throughout Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, can provide transportation assistance for those who need help traveling to an appointment. Additionally, FRCOG is working with the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) to determine what additional transportation services are needed in the region and how the FRTA can help.

FRTA Administrator Tina Cote said people ages 60 and older and those who cannot get to a vaccination site on their own can use the FRTA Access program, the transit authority’s micro-transit, curb-to-curb service, by calling 413-773-8090. Trips to and from vaccine clinics are free.

“We believe that these services have the capacity to meet the needs of Franklin County residents who are unable to travel or need assistance traveling to the upcoming central clinic site,” Rogers said. “We are monitoring this issue very closely and will adjust our operations to meet the needs of the county.”

Rogers said the most recent state vaccine report from April 1 shows that 35 percent of Franklin County residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine — up from 32 percent the previous week. Meanwhile, 19 percent — up from 16 percent the week before — are fully vaccinated. (Those figures include individuals vaccinated across many vaccination sites, not just at FRCOG clinics.)

Local resources

People ages 55 and older and those with one medical condition are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Starting Monday, April 19, everyone 16 years old and older will be eligible.

The Community Health Center of Franklin County will open vaccine appointments to the public at its Greenfield site on Main Street on April 19. Larger venues, like the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Eastfield Mall in Springfield, also continue to administer the vaccine.

A comprehensive list of sites across the state can be found at vaxfinder.mass.gov, while county-specific information is available at franklincountymavaccine.org.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center continues to administer the vaccine as does CVS, Big Y and private doctor’s offices, though they are calling their patients to make appointments and asking patients not to call them.

Anyone who needs help registering for a vaccine or would like a ride to a clinic should call LifePath at 413-829-9285. The state Homebound Vaccination Program can be reached at 833-983-0485.

Residents can also call the state helpline at 211 or FRCOG’s hotline at 413-774-3167, ext. 153.

Orange, New Salem and Wendell residents should call the Orange Board of Health at 978-544-1107.

For more information about the Greenfield clinic, currently operating at the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street, call 413-775-6411 or email vaccine.clinics@greenfield-ma.gov.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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