‘A win-win for everybody’: Vaccine clinic kicks off at the Y

Feb 10, 2021

The Gleason Family YMCA was bustling on Wednesday, Feb. 10, as roughly 400 seniors received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a clinic led by Southcoast Health.

Martin Fishman, a former Onset resident who now lives in Carver, was one of the lucky group to get vaccinated on Wednesday. Fishman said he received a call on Monday asking if he wanted to schedule a vaccination appointment for Wednesday, and was so surprised and excited that he almost fell off his chair. 

 “It was totally painless, totally comfortable,” Fishman said of the vaccination process at the Y.

Fishman said the staff were doing a “fantastic job.”

“You’d have to be an idiot not to look forward to getting the vaccine, especially with family,” Fishman said. “You want to see your grandkids? Get the vaccine! You’re playing Russian roulette without it.”

Southcoast officials are working to help as many people as possible have an experience like Fishman’s.

“We’re doing everything we can to get as many shots in the arms of as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and as fairly as possible,” said Southcoast spokesperson Shawn Badgley.

Badgley said that the healthcare system has already cleared the biggest hurdle for vaccine distribution, which was finding and setting up locations to administer the vaccine. In addition to the Wareham location, Southcoast is running vaccination clinics in Dartmouth and Fall River. 

“As long as we have the supply, we’ll be up and running,” Badgley said. As state guidance opens up vaccine access to more people, Southcoast will do the same.

Southcoast received 2,700 vaccines for its first week of clinics. In time, Badgley said, Southcoast officials hope to scale that up to provide ten times as many doses to community members each week.

Tonya Johnson, the vice president of operations for Southcoast, smiled behind her mask as she watched the bustling vaccination site.

“It’s really exciting,” Johnson said, noting that this was the third vaccination clinic the healthcare nonprofit had opened in three days. “The feedback has been super positive.”

Johnson said that a number of seniors she spoke to had previously secured appointments to receive the vaccine at Gillette Stadium. When given the opportunity to get the shot closer to home, they were able to cancel their Gillette appointments and free them up for others. 

“You can almost see [the vaccine recipients] beaming behind their masks,” said Badgley.

And every vaccination given is a step toward a less-restrictive future.

“The more people are vaccinated, the more likely we’ll return to more normal life, with no masks,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said that both vaccines currently available have been shown to have very few side effects, most of which subside in less than 24 hours — a length of time far shorter than the average case of coronavirus, which can leave people with long-lasting and severe side effects.

Southcoast is only administering Moderna vaccines at the Y. Johnson said that Southcoast is sticking with one type of vaccine at each site to minimize logistical problems. Limiting each location to one brand means that every patient needs to return for their second dose after the same number of days, and ensures everyone will receive two doses of the same vaccine.

Johnson said she was grateful to the YMCA for providing the space for the clinic.

“This has been a really great partnership supporting community health,” Johnson said. 

Lu Brito, the senior program director for the Gleason Family YMCA, said that his organization was happy to partner with Southcoast to help the community.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Selectman Alan Slavin, who was finishing his work out at the Y. He noted he had never seen the Y’s parking lot so full.

The seniors receiving vaccines on Wednesday were randomly selected amongst those eligible to receive a vaccine and invited to make an appointment.

Patients were asked to arrive about five minutes before their appointment time to check in with a Southcoast employee. The Southcoast employee administering the vaccine then completed a brief screening before giving the shot. After receiving the vaccination, seniors are asked to stay seated for 15 minutes to ensure they don’t experience unexpected negative side effects from the vaccine.

And they are automatically given an appointment to receive their second dose of the vaccine at the same time and place several weeks later.

Southcoast will also begin administering vaccines to the spouses of those selected for appointments if they attend together and also meet eligibility requirements.

The clinic currently serves nearby residents aged 75 or older — even if they do not have a Southcoast Health primary care physician — and will expand vaccine eligibility to more people over time, per state guidance.

As vaccines are available, eligible people who have signed up for Southcoast’s MyChart will be randomly selected to be asked to schedule an appointment. Vaccinations will be administered by appointment only. 

Those interested in getting vaccinated can sign up for the MyChart portal, which automatically adds people to Southcoast’s list of prospective vaccine recipients, at mychart.southcoast.org/mychart/signup.

Current Southcoast patients who are 75 years or older and are unable to sign up for MyChart can expect to receive a call about scheduling a vaccination appointment.

Those interested in getting vaccinated should not call the YMCA, which has no role in the scheduling process.

For more detailed information about the sign-up process, go to southcoast.org/covid-vaccine.

Those eligible for the vaccine can find appointments at other providers around the state using the state’s website mass.gov/CovidVaccineMap.