Weeks after publicly criticizing the Baker Administration’s decision to largely remove towns from the ongoing vaccination effort, Abington officials welcomed Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to town Friday hoping to show her that communities can efficiently manage vaccine clinics.
Polito toured a town-run clinic held at the Senior Center where many Abington educators were receiving their second vaccination doses.
The tour was closed to the media so Abington News has no idea what happened once inside. Lt. Gov. Polito did not take any questions before going inside.
“Happy to speak with Lt. Governor Polito at the Abington Senior Center today, and show her the hard work local health officials have done putting together our local vaccine clinics,” Selectmen Chairman Tim Chapin wrote on Facebook later.
“I will take any opportunity given to advocate for clinics like these to lead the vaccination charge.”
Abington, like most other cities and towns in the Commonwealth, had worked with the state Department of Public Health annually to maintain and update a mass vaccination plan, in case it was ever needed. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Abington started implementing its state-approved plan, including purchasing an ultra-cold freezer to store vaccine doses.
The town held about a half dozen vaccination clinics – primarily for first responders, health care workers, and seniors over 75 – before the Baker Administration announced that cities and towns would no longer receive weekly vaccine allotments; private companies instead were placed in charge of the vaccination effort.
Gov. Baker told a legislative committee last month he approved the pivot because of complexities involving the vaccines.
The state did continue to send some doses to municipalities in order to vaccinate seniors living in public housing.
Abington held a vaccine clinic in March for town educators using leftover doses it had squirrled away after the senior housing clinics. A few days later the state told cities and towns they were prohibited from saving leftover doses to use for public clinics.
Rep. Alyson Sullivan, an Abington Republican, organized Friday’s tour.
Sullivan, who was among those critical of the Baker Administration’s pivot in February, said she has “had multiple conversations” with administration officials in the weeks since advocating on behalf of a local role in the vaccination process.
She said Abington Public Health Director Marty Golightly has been working with other nearby communities to form a regional effort based at Bridgewater State University. The hope is that the state will allow Abington to schedule future vaccination clinics through that collaborative.
Priot to touring the clinic, Polito spent about 15 minutes outside talking to Golightly, Public Health Nurse Lindsay Wright, and Firefighter Justin Silva – who have coordinated the Abington clinics – about their approach.
Golightly and Wright said they spent considerable time trying to educate seniors and other skeptical about receiving the vaccine.
“At the end of the day its everyone’s personal choice but we wanted to make sure it was an informed choice,” Wright said.
Golightly said people felt more comfortable receiving information from people they personally know and respect.