Sudders offers vaccine distribution breakdown


Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders told health care providers that closing long-term care facilities to visitors was one of the most difficult decisions she made during the pandemic. (Screenshot)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Lawmakers late Thursday repeatedly pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to share with them the administration’s plan for distributing the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses among hospitals, community health centers, mass vaccination sites, and other providers.

The focus on the distribution comes a week after the Baker administration announced it would stop providing first doses to local boards of health running their own clinics in favor of streamlining the vaccine rollout through high-capacity locations like mass vaccination sites and regional collaboratives.

“I think that decision has had a disproportionately harmful effect on not just where I represent in north-central Mass., but communities in western Mass. and Cape Cod, and it’s created, in effect, vaccine deserts,” Sen. John Cronin of Lunenburg said.

Sudders said the state wants to “leverage local boards to help in areas that they know better than anyone,” like identifying homebound residents and making plans to get the vaccine to them.

She also singled out Berkshire County and Barnstable County as two regions where the regional collaborative approach has worked. But that didn’t sit well with Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro. “I appreciate that you refer to Barnstable County as a shining example, but I just want to break down what the so-called collaborative is.

This is not a state-supported or a state-funded grant effort to pull people together. This is me and my legislative colleagues, get on the phone with the CEO of Cape Cod Hospital, getting on the phone with the community health centers, pulling in Barnstable County, calling up elder services, our [Aging Services Access Point], and making these things happen,” he said.

Sudders responded by saying that what Cyr described is exactly the kind of local planning that she thought she heard lawmakers asking for throughout Thursday’s oversight hearing, which ran for about six hours.

“When I say Barnstable County is a shining example, the percentage of residents with first doses administered is 20 percent, second only to Berkshire County,” Sudders said. “In fact, what you describe is what I thought I’ve been hearing from you all day, which is locals coming together for solutions.”

In addition to agreeing to provide the committee with the plan, Sudders also agreed to return in two weeks to again testify before the oversight panel.

Currently, Sudders said, 52 percent of first doses go to hospitals and health care providers, 22 percent go to pharmacies and the federal pharmacy program that vaccinates at nursing homes, 10 percent go to local boards of health and 9 percent go to the mass vaccination sites.

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