Wellesley’s Health Department is coordinating with a handful of nearby communities to vaccinate first responders against COVID-19, and Wellesley could be dispensing the first of two Moderna vaccine doses as soon as Jan. 11.
During the Dec. 30 Board of Health Meeting (beginning about 33 minutes into the Wellesley Media recording), Health Department Director Lenny Izzo discussed various challenges that the town is wrangling with, including the transport and cold storage of the vaccine, as well as scheduling injections.
“It’s not as seamless or as easy we initially envisioned,” Izzo said. A lot depends on how the state handles things in terms of when it actually sends the vaccine and how much it sends, he said. The town initially requested more than 100 doses, though Izzo was reevaluating whether more would be needed at the outset. Through the regional approach to coordinating the vaccine distribution, the communities within a region are likely to schedule vaccinations at roughly the same time, so that they can share any unused doses with each other on the fly once a vial is opened.
As Izzo told us during a recent interview, vaccines will be dispensed in a staggered process, to ensure that not too many first responders could potentially suffer bad reactions at once. First responders, along with healthcare workers and those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among those designated by the state to be vaccinated at the start (at least one of Wellesley’s nursing homes is slated to start vaccinations this coming week).
One good thing about the timing for first responder vaccinations is that the town now shouldn’t need to go forward with surveillance testing of firefighters and police that had proved challenging in the first place, said Board member Marcia Testa Simonson. Willingness to get vaccinated among those departments looks to be fairly high, Izzo said.
One logistical question being mulled is when to vaccinate the Health Department staff that will be vaccinating the first responders in light of the staff likely feeling after effects from their own shots. “I can’t imagine vaccinating one of our nurses and then having them stand around for three or four hours administering vaccines,” Izzo said.
Dr. Shira Doron, a Wellesley resident and epidemiologist with Tufts Medical Center, joined the recent Board of Health call, and shared her experiences so far at the hospital, which had already vaccinated several thousand employees. Those vaccinated have reported serious chills overnight, but have not been prevented from going to work the next day. “But dose 2 will be a different story. It will be a lot worse…,” she said.
While not sugar coating the side effects, Doron said she and colleagues are doing what they can to educate the public about COVID-19 vaccines and debunk misinformation. She’s reached out to the Wellesley High’s safety committee to see if there’s interest in Doron and colleagues getting in front of teachers, and she’s volunteered to do the same for first responders. “We do this in our sleep, this is what we do all day now,” she said.
Parents speak out about schools
The Board of Health meeting kicked off with a citizen speak portion during which parent Kerry Bedard summarized a letter written on behalf of herself and others concerned with the educational and emotional toll that the town’s hybrid education model is having on students and families. Rumblings of a return to all-remote education also has them nervous, said Bedard, who noted that the letter is being shared with the Board of Health, School Committee, Select Board, and Wellesley Public Schools Supt. Dr. David Lussier.
The letter (embedded below) lays out four considerations:
- Revisit school reopening metrics developed months ago in light of the latest data
- Dynamic revisiting of barriers (such as social distancing metrics) to full in-person learning
- Ability for parents, students, and teachers to have more of a say in the decision-making process
- Review the transparency of decision making
“We just feel given what we’ve experienced in the spring [and] what we’re seeing in the fall, school is an essential business for our kids,” said Bedard, who has two daughters at the high school. “We need to get our kids back to school full, in person as quickly and safely as we can…”
The citizen speak segment of the meeting, which also included another parent adding to the points in the letter, took an unusual twist. Typically, town boards emphasize that citizen speak is solely for citizens to have their say, but not involve discussion. But Testa Simonson made a motion to convert the subject of the letter into a new business agenda item, which was then discussed. She said the letter addressed four very good points, and noted that on the metrics front, there’s a need to look at them from a perspective of when schools open for full in-person learning rather than just when they go into full remote.
Board Chair Shep Cohen said that the letter and considerations raised will be discussed when the Board and school officials meet this coming week.
Note: A recap of the Wellesley Public Schools viral testing program, and an outlook on continued funding, was shared by Lussier and others during the Dec. 22 School Committee meeting.
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