This week, four neighborhood clinics in Springfield began administering COVID-19 vaccinations. The goal of the neighborhood clinics is increasing vaccine access for city residents, especially hard-to-reach populations.  

State Representative Bud Williams (D —Springfield), along with other members of the Black and Latino legislative caucus, urged Governor Charlie Baker to ensure vaccine equity communities of color disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  

Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel sat down with Representative Williams to get an update on rolling out vaccines to underserved Springfield residents. 

Read the transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: COVID-19 vaccination started being administered this week in for Springfield neighborhood clinics, providing greater access for local residents in hard-to-reach populations. State Representative Bud Williams of Springfield, along with other members of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, had urged Govenor Charlie Baker to provide vaccines to the minority communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Connecting Point‘s Ray Hershel spoke with Representative Williams to get an update on how the state is doing in rolling out vaccines to under-served city residents.

Rep. Bud Williams (D – Springfield): What we found out during the rollout at Eastfield Mall for the vaccine site is that the system just wasn’t working for a lot of marginalized, under-served communities.

So, we met with Commissioner Carlton, Health Commissioner of Springfield, Governor Baker at the state level, Secretary Sutters. And we said, hey, look, if you go out to Eastfield mall and you look at the makeup of the community to get vaccinated, it’s not many people of color. So, this 211 system, and the system started before, it just isn’t working. And we have to figure a way to take this program to under-served, marginalized communities. That literally means to poor people, basically. So,  we’re able to work with the state to create systems.

Now, we have sites within the Greater Springfield community. We have sites in Mason Square, at St. John’s Church, J.C. Williams Community Center, South End Community Center, Gerena School, New North Citizens Council. And we think it was very important that we’re going to get herd immunity and we want to get everyone protected, the most vulnerable people within the system have to be protected.

Ray Hershel, Connecting Point: Representative Williams, the the first of those neighborhood clinics you addressed at St. John’s Church was held earlier this week. How did it go? What was the response like? And were things running smoothly at that clinic?

Rep. Bud Williams: It was fantastic and fabulous. We had 200 doses of the vaccine that were given out on Tuesday morning from nine thirty to 12 noon. All the slots were taken.; all the people showed up, one hundred percent of those who registered showed up. And went as smooth as we could ever imagine.

That just tells us that there’s tremendous need within our marginalized community, in an under-served community, that we have to take the program and meet people where they are. And that’s what we did.

We’re going to meet people where they are. It’s a lot easier and more convenient to get to a site within the Mason Square community or the North End or the McKnight neighborhood of the O Hill neighborhood or the Upper Hill neighborhood than it is to get to Eastfield Mall.

It takes work to get these Eastfield Mall. And a lot of our citizens just don’t have the transportation, don’t have the cars. And we’re telling people, don’t take public transportation if you don’t have to because they’re finding out getting on buses with a lot of people is not a safe situation.

Ray Hershel: Now, what are the status of these neighborhood clinics around the city? Are they going to be continually operating? Will you be getting the doses so that you’ll be able to operate or operate them on a regular basis for the people in need?

Rep. Bud Williams: It’s my understanding that we’ll be at eight hundred dosages a week. The state has set aside eight hundred dosages for the under-served and the marginalized community, and it’s for people who live, you know, basically, Mason Square neighborhood and the North End neighborhoods.

Ray Hershel: Now Representative Williams, statistically, Blacks and Latinos have lagged behind the white population in terms of getting the vaccine. Why do you feel that’s the case?

Rep. Bud Williams: There’s two things. There’s some pessimism that exists between Black and brown communities in terms of trusting the health community. They really don’t. There’s a lack of trust and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest why this should be a lack of trust, the Tuskegee study and stuff, and there’s other other indicators.

And the other pieces availability. It just hasn’t been made available for people in the under-served and the marginalized communities. I think when you rolled this stuff out, you had to go to a computer to sign up. Most people in these communities don’t even have a computer, they don’t have access to the Internet.

I don’t think when they wrote it up, if they had people in marginalized communities in mind, because no matter — when there’s always a tragedy, whether it’s the Katrina Hurricane, when it’s an ice storm, when there it’s a snowstorm, people within the marginalized communities are always dealt with in this way.

Ray Hershel: Representative Williams, what’s your message? How do you get people who are marginalized in these areas, as you’ve indicated, who are still reluctant to get the vaccines? What do you tell them? What’s the message to them to be able to get that vaccine and, you know, for the future and for their health?

Rep. Bud Williams: I started the Black COVID Coalition, along with some other community leaders, Reverend Morgan and and Andrew Kay. And we started trying to educate folks within the under-served in the marginalized communities.

The statistics would tell you most people would take the vaccine based upon who took it. And it’s not going to be a national star, it’s not going to be national news. It’s going to be someone local, one of their family members, one of their friends, their clergy, their minister, your state representative, your city councilor. Those are the people who they’re going to look at to get guidance.

And when they see or find out someone took the vaccine and they actually can touch and feel them, in some kind of way, they will take it. That’s how 60 percent of the folks have said they’ve taken the vaccine.

Ray Hershel: And overall, Representative Williams, are you generally satisfied with the roll out in Springfield? Are there still areas that need to be addressed as we move forward

Rep. Bud Williams: The roll out now, I was just up at Eastfield Mall a couple of days ago. It’s a whole lot better. There are no more lines, they are dealing with about sixteen hundred vaccines a day at Eastfield Mall. It’s going pretty smooth.

We have them in our community. We just need to get ready for, you know in about April or May when the whole front opens up, where everyone is going to be eligible to get the vaccine, we’re going to have to be ready. And we’re gonna need more boots on the ground. We’re going to need more resources. We’re gonna need more doctors, more nurses, we’re gonna need more sites because we have to get ready for this influx that’s going to come.

It’s coming in April, May, whenever it really opens up. And I hope that we’ll be ready for that.