25 Investigates: COVID-19 vaccine rollout showing progress

BOSTON — The rocky rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts is starting to show some progress. 25 Investigates has been examining what it really takes to get these doses out there and the hurdles healthcare providers are facing.

The rollout has been called bumpy and in some cases just plain slow. On the ground at healthcare centers, they accept some, but not all of that criticism.

“I think it’s fair criticism. But at the same we can’t anticipate everything,” said Stan McLaren, CEO of the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center in Dorchester.

“We’re running a health center. We still have to serve our patients,” he told anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh. “So, the fact that we are staggering how we vaccinate health care workers has an impact. We can’t do it all at once.”

So, they’re doing it in phases.

McLaren says people should be mindful this rollout, which in phase 1-A is focused on healthcare workers and residents of long term care facilities, is happening in the middle of a pandemic.

“Not only do we have limited doses, we only have enough to cover the staffing we have, but also we have to think about we’re delivering care during the pandemic. So, we have to do it so that we can continue to deliver the care,” McLaren said.

According to state data, as of Jan. 5, the state has received 328,000 total doses of the vaccine. The state has administered 141,108 or, 43 percent.

One week ago, the state had administered less than 28 percent of doses.

Also on Thursday, we learned 1,213 people are now fully vaccinated in Massachusetts, meaning they have received both doses.

So, there is progress.

At the Harvard Neighborhood Health Center they’ve vaccinated about half their staff. They hope to reach 60-70 percent in about a week.

But, McLaren says they’re also dealing with staff members who aren’t yet ready to get it.

“There’s skepticism in the public. So, we’re preparing for that. But then we have skepticism with our employees,” he said. “On top of that, the fact that I’m in a black community and the historic nature to the distrust within the community only exacerbates the situation.”

McLaren got the vaccine working to build trust among staff.

Vaccine rollout obstacles vary from small health centers to major hospitals.

“The supply has improved. It’s still not flowing as freely as optimum. But, we have been able to vaccinate now well over 6,000 or 7,000 people in the last few weeks,” said Dr. Robert Klugman, the medical director for employee health services at UMASS Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Klugman says they’re trying to vaccinate some 20,000 people between the hospital and medical school.

“We’re getting it out pretty much as fast or faster than we’re getting it in,” he said.

And Klugman says they’re stepping up to vaccinate community first responders too.

Klugman says it’s a complex process, but he feels it’s going relatively smoothly for the first-priority group.

But, he understands why people outside of the group are anxious.

“There’s certainly the broader level of the of the population and I would say certainly, in that regard, things have been bumpy and slow,” Klugman says. “But it’s [the process] a couple of months, not a couple of days or weeks, which is, I think, what a lot of people wish somehow that it would be.”

On Monday, the state begins the enormous process of vaccinating another priority group first responders.

Health officials announced this week they will turn places like Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park into mass vaccination sites.

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