As the New Year unfolds, it brings with it hope, as we are now witnessing the distribution of the Vaccine for COVID-19. As one COA directly so aptly shared, “We have hope now, that soon we will know more people who have been vaccinated than people who have had COVID or have died from it”.
We are grateful to live in a time where science has been able to swiftly develop these vaccines, and to live in a state that has been at the forefront not only in vaccine development but also in their efforts to get the commonwealths older adults vaccinated!
We understand there are numerous questions and many unknowns, which is why we are sending you this Alert and have created a COVID-19 Vaccine Tab on our webpage, which will be updated frequently, so please check it regularly. In addition to this COVID-19 Alert, we have important links on the commonwealths’ vaccination plan, and we recommend you bookmark and check them frequently, as new information is added frequently, and changes are made.
As you are aware, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Department of Public Health developed a vaccine distribution timeline. The timeline reflects several priorities: protecting the commonwealths most vulnerable including the commonwealths 1.7 million older adults, maintaining the health care system capacity, and addressing inequities in health care access and COVID-19 burden.
For general overall information on the vaccine program, go to: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-program
Currently there are three phases in the Vaccine Plan, and these phases include approximate times lines which are subject to change. On January 4, the vaccine distribution plan was updated so that individuals age 75+ are now included in Phase 2, Group 1, along with individuals of all ages with 2+ comorbidities. This change places those groups toward the front of the line in the second vaccination phase aimed to start sometime in February. For information and updates on the vaccine distribution timeline and to learn where you and others fit into the COVID-19 vaccine distribution timeline, go to: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/when-can-i-get-the-covid-19-vaccine
We have received numerous inquiries from the network asking when COAs directors and staff will be able to get vaccinated. MCOA submitted on January 4, 2021 the following five questions in a letter to Secretary Sudders and to MADPH, that seek to identify where front-facing and/or direct-contact directors, staff, and volunteers of Councils on Aging (COAs) and/or Senior Centers, who are currently delivering services and supports to elders, fit in the Massachusetts 3 phase vaccination plan.
- For COA directors, staff and volunteers who have direct-contact by transporting older adults to medical visits and grocery stores; what phase will they be in?
- For COA directors, staff and volunteers who have direct-contact with older adults by providing grab-and-go meals, activity kits, or supplies for pick-up at Centers; what phase will they be in?
- For COA directors, staff and volunteers who have direct-contact with older adults by delivering in person, medication, food, and supplies; what phase will they be in?
- For COA directors, staff and volunteers who have direct-contact by providing group respite programs for older adults such as Supportive Day; what phase will they be in?
- For COA directors, staff, including outreach workers and COA volunteers who have direct-contact by providing front-facing assistance to older adults who need help applying for; health insurance, fuel assistance, technology assistance, and economic assistance; what phase will they be in?
The above questions are similar to those submitted to the administration by MassHome Care. The Administration informed MCOA on a stakeholder call in December, that it will provide updates and information on where certain “professions” fit in the commonwealths three phases of the vaccine plan. The administration has said they are actively clarifying where groups resides on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination prioritization list, and their responses will be on the COVID-19 Vaccine Plan Web page.
The administration is also now providing a Weekly COVID-19 Vaccination Report, which provides information on: The number of doses of vaccine shipped and administered; The number of people vaccinated; Vaccine distribution numbers by county; Age and race/ethnicity breakdowns of those receiving vaccines; and Vaccines administered by different types of providers. This report is updated every Thursday by 5pm. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-program#weekly-covid-19-vaccination-report-
As we move through the next 90-180 days, we suggest you be thinking about the following:
- The COVID-19 Vaccine is not mandatory: There will be some individuals who cannot receive the vaccine and those who will not be willing to receive the vaccine. Consider how this will impact your center and future programming. You may want to contact your local Board of Health and/or municipal leaders to develop a policy to address concerns that may arise from having non-vaccinated seniors, staff, vendors, or others or in your center.
- As the warmer weather returns, what senior center activities will be high risk, and what activities will be at low risk?
- Be prepared for possible delays in the distribution of the vaccine. It may be that the quantity needed to vaccinate those in phase 3 of the vaccine plan, is not available until early fall.
- COVID fatigue has resulted in some people dropping their guard. To learn why and more importantly what you can do about it, go to: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-fight-coronavirus-caution-fatigue/
- Post vaccination, there will be a continued need to wear masks and maintain physical distance: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions#do-i-need-to-wear-a-mask-and-avoid-close-contact-with-others-if-i-have-received-two-doses-of-the-vaccine?
- Should your center become a focal point for vaccine distribution, it will be an opportunity to educate ‘younger’ seniors and those in your community who have not been to your center, about all you do, offer, and the resources you have. Our COAs have impacted the quality of life and improved the health outcomes for older adults for decades all across the commonwealth!
- This is a very good time to update your Disaster Manual and add to it, what you have learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic that could be helpful in the event of other types of disasters.
Vaccine information is frequently updated, so please stay tuned, and we will continue to provide you with updates at https://mcoaonline.com/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine/
Stay safe and be well.
The MCOA Team
David Stevens: 413-527-6425, firstname.lastname@example.org
Betsy Connell: 617-816-1338, email@example.com
Kathy Bowler: 413-271-4633, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Burke: 413-923-1972, email@example.com
Susan Carp: 617-775-0116, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shari Cox: 413-527-6425, email@example.com
Tara Hammes: 413-923-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan McNulty: 413-527-6425, email@example.com
Patty Sullivan 617-470-9689, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynn Wolf: 413-527-6425, email@example.com