Vaccinating hundreds of residents at multiple sites each day has been a huge undertaking for East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), but luckily the Health Center has had continued support from the Massachusetts National Guard.
As part of the Commonwealthâ€™s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, the National Guard began providing support of vaccination initiatives earlier this month. Medically qualified Guard members began partnering with the EBNHC to administer vaccines. Their assistance at EBNHC is expected to continue to support four vaccination sites throughout EBNHCâ€™s service area including Eastie, Chelsea, Revere and the South End through this federally funded mission.
However, the presence of the military in full uniform has made some in the immigrant community without legal status uneasy and EBNHC administrators fear this uneasiness may lead some away from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
EBNHC Vice President of Human Resources Steven Snyder wants Eastieâ€™s immigrant community to know that the Health Centerâ€™s vaccine program does not discriminate.
â€œWe know that some members of the community can be a bit fearful when they see the troops in their army fatigue uniforms, but it is critically important for all to understand that the Guard are here for one purpose only â€“ to vaccinate our community,â€ said Snyder. â€œPatients scheduling appointments do not need to provide any documentation as to their immigration status â€“ we only ask ID to verify the patient at the time of appointment.â€
Snyder said most of the troops helping out EBNHC staff are from our community, some are bi-lingual and all very competent and friendly.
â€œThe feedback from patients has been fantastic,â€ said Snyder. â€œCurrently National Guard troops are working out of our East Boston Liverpool Street Site and our newest site which just opened up at the former Wonderland Ballroom in Revere â€“ now called Oceanside.â€
The Guard will continue to make qualified personnel available to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for deployment to facilities requesting assistance.
â€œStaffing for our vaccination sites is a big challenge,â€ said Snyder. â€œWe have opened multiple sites in a variety of our service areas and will be giving out thousands of vaccines every week. In addition to redeploying our own staff and hiring others, we are greatly appreciative to have been sent medically trained troops from the National Guard to assist in giving out vaccinations.â€
The National Guard has personnel with a range of applicable expertise within its ranks, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and medics. These individuals have already administered the vaccine to 1,000 eligible Massachusetts soldiers and airmen, and now shift their focus to assisting in clinical settings for eligible members of the public.