Vax’s effort is reaching neighborhoods with Pride stores housing mobile vaccination clinics; ‘We need to fix this’ as Springfield lags

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SPRINGFIELD – Only 41% of Springfield residents are fully vaccinated against COVID 19 while Hampden County – also at 48% at the end of last week – also lags behind the state average which has more than 60% of the fully immunized population.

Robert Bolduc, Founder and CEO of Pride Stores has never lagged behind. Especially when he has noticed – as have local officials and public health experts – that the biggest gaps in vaccinations seem to be in black and Latino communities and in underserved neighborhoods.

According to statewide statistics released at the end of last week, 31% of Springfield’s black population is vaccinated and only 26% of the Latin American population has received the vaccine.

Blackouts for Holyoke and Chicopee – other places where Pride will host clinics – were not available.

“We will have suitable locations in the economically disadvantaged communities where these people are,” Bolduc said.

Thus, over the coming weekends, a mobile clinic managed by Curative will bring its vehicles to the Pride stores in Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee. It will offer the incentives recently announced by the state, such as the chance to win $ 1 million or the chance to win a $ 300,000 scholarship as part of the state’s Vaxmillions giveaway. Those who get vaccinated at the walk-in clinics will also each receive a $ 25 Pride gas card and free iced coffee all summer.

“If this package doesn’t do it, nothing will,” Bolduc said. “Let’s see if we can do some vaccinations. “

The clinics will be:

  • Pride, 77 West St., Springfield: Saturday July 10, 17, 24 and 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Pride, 700 State St., Springfield: Saturday July 10, 17, 24 and 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Pride: 167 rue Chicopee, Chicopee: Sunday July 11, 18, 25 and August 1: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Pride 1553 Dwight St., Holyoke: Sunday July 11, 18, 25 and August 1: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bolduc said on Tuesday that if the clinics are successful, the state told him it would like to add more hours and locations.

He announced the clinics just as Curative Tuesday closed its high-volume clinic in the Eastfield Mall and as the city of Springfield ramps up its smaller-scale vaccination efforts in neighborhood centers.

The state even offers its Vax Express train along MBTA commuter routes.

“Basically the concept is more for people to talk to you,” Bolduc said. “It makes sense. They should have done it a long time ago.

Helen Caulton-Harris, commissioner for the City of Springfield’s Department of Health and Human Services, said there were 23 reported cases of COVID in Springfield for the week ending July 3. That was against 17 the week before.

She said the increase was not statistically significant.

Vaccines are the best way to reduce these infections. Vaccination rates vary widely in Springfield, hitting lows of 22% or 23% in some hard-to-serve neighborhoods.

Caulton-Harris agreed with Bolduc’s emphasis on the State Street neighborhood and the area at the north end near West Street.

“These are the two areas of the city where we need a raise. We would like to increase our vaccination rate, ”she said.

The city of Springfield has partnered with Big Y for immunization clinics at the Big Y’s St. James Avenue store on July 23-24 and again next weekend July 30-31.

The City of Springfield will continue its efforts as the Tuesday Night Clinic at the Raymond A. Jordan Springfield Senior Center in Blunt Park, at the Brightwood Health Center on Plainfield Street on Thursday night. A full list of times, addresses and locations is available here.

Curative also has a walk-in clinic at Springfield Technical Community College, near the State Street store in Bolduc.

Bolduc said its Pride locations are places that neighborhood residents go to, sometimes a few times a day, for their daily needs.

“We’re just in their backyard,” he said.

The state has a vaccine research site at vaxfinder.mass.gov

The town also has “Shot for Shot,” a basketball tournament and vaccination clinic in Forest Park on Saturday July 17th and a vaccination event scheduled for Magazine Park, 83 Magazine St. a week later on July 24th. said Caulton-Harris.

The city also goes door to door.

She said awareness is key to tackling vaccine reluctance, those who are ready to get vaccinated but haven’t. She knows there is a core of people who will remain unmoved.

“There are those who, no matter how much awareness we do, resist it,” she said.

Bolduc said the honor system – only allowing those who are fully vaccinated to go without masks – isn’t working.

“Do you really believe that everyone without a mask received the blow?” ” he said.

And he’s worried about a new variant that again increases infections.

He said he was considering making the vaccine mandatory for employees.

“But in this job market, I can’t do that,” he said. “I can’t afford to lose a single employee. So we try to educate them.

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