Clinic Distributed 10,000th COVID-19 Vaccine Dose on Saturday
AMESBURY — Go back in time 10 years and ask a public health director about the possibility of a global pandemic and the answers would be pretty consistent: “it can happen tomorrow.”
They have been planning, training, conducting drills and acquiring supplies for a generation. Bad flu seasons, EEE/West Nile spikes and senior healthcare seminars abound, but at no time in history have public heath officials been more visible than during the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged worldwide.
In the lower Merrimack Valley, the communities run the gamut between city agencies and small towns with open town meeting governments. Over the past year, the nine communities that comprise the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative have banded together to share ideas, time and resources to help residents stay safe from COVID-19, culminating in the ongoing vaccine clinic which has, to date, distributed more than 11,500 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Trained medical professionals and first responders lead the effort at Amesbury High School, supported by a legion of volunteers. Following each weekend of clinics, the public health directors and fire chiefs assess all aspects of the clinic’s effectiveness.
As more vaccines become available, the clinic has scaled up its workload and dialed back the time between appointments. Even with the added workload, the clinic on April 3 administered more than 1,800 doses in under eight hours with an approximate “door-to-needle” time of approximately four minutes per patient.
Last week, the Collaborative released a photo gallery of first responders and fire chiefs, whose talent and leadership has been vital during the effort. This week, we look at the Public Health Directors and Health Agents of the nine communities, each of whom have given their talents, knowledge, experience and most of all time to the clinic.
Deb Rogers, Health Director, Newbury
Newbury Health Director Deborah Rogers has been a fixture in the clinic’s registration stations, helping troubleshoot any registration problems that come up and ensuring there are no delays for patients. She also troubleshoots problems — a misplaced insurance card, a patient who shows up at the wrong time — earning her the nickname “The Scrambler.” (Courtesy Photo)
Who Am I:Public Health Director, Town of Newbury for 18 years, 23 years as a public health director
My Role at the Clinic: “One of four registration supervisors. I guide patients to the correct stations, which is especially important now that the clinic has expanded to administering both first and second doses.”
What people should know about the clinic: “The public health directors and fire chiefs started planning in September and October for a clinic for first responders, and we expanded to clinics for the public. But this is nothing new. We’ve been responsible for clinics for years: flu, H1N1 vaccines, etc. We have been preparing to respond to large public-health incidents since 9/11.
“Everyone here works so well together. Everyone has their role, and everyone is good at it. That’s why this effort is so successful.”
Frank Marchegiani, Health Director, Rowley
Rowley Health Director Frank Marchegiani directs a patient to the observation room. (Courtesy Photo)
Who Am I: Public Health Director, Town of Rowley, for 15 years
My Role at the Clinic: “Monitoring Check-in/Transition at Observation Check-in Table”
“I am the first health professional to greet patients after they receive their vaccine. I help guide patients through the Observation Check-in station, where patients receive their exact exit time, and I answer any questions for patients who may have concerns.”
What people should know about the clinic: “People should know what a good effort this has been among the town health departments. It’s a comfort that people can get their vaccines locally.
“It’s incredible how smoothly this has gone. People get their shots and move along. It’s efficient, and there is rarely any backup.”
Jack Morris, Public Health Director, Salisbury
Who Am I: Public Health Director, Town of Salisbury, for 12 years, 34 years as a public health director.
My Role at the Clinic: Observation Supervisor and Exit Monitor
“I direct patients to the correct waiting room and help ensure patients stay for the 15-minute or 30-minute observation period.”
What people should know about the clinic: “People should know about the hard work that goes into a local clinic. The public health departments are doing this on top of their normal workload, and on top of the other COVID-19-related work like restaurant inspections.
“This has been a huge effort that shows there is a strength in numbers. These large events are what we have been training for, for years. People prefer this. They prefer getting their shot locally, and they don’t want to drive 45 minutes to get vaccinated.”
Paul Sevigny, Health Agent, West Newbury
West Newbury Health Agent Paul Sevigny has served as one of the incident commanders of the clinic operation. (Courtesy Photo)
Who Am I: Health Agent for the Town of West Newbury for the past 18 years.
My Role at the Clinic: “Under the incident command system (ICS) I serve as one of the incident commanders, providing high-level support and ensuring that everyone has everything that need to do their jobs well at the clinic.”
What people should know about the clinic: “This is a true example of neighbors helping neighbors. We have all come together with a common cause. We have all made sacrifices since early last year, and this clinic has been remarkable for those of us in public health because we are bringing relief to our residents and keeping them well. That’s our mission in public health.”
This is just a sample of the public health directors and health agents in the nine communities including:
- Ken Berkenbush, Amesbury Fire Chief and Health Director
- Rosemary Decie, Groveland Health Agent
- Frank Giacalone, Newburyport Health Director
- Deborah Ketchen, Merrimac Health Agent
According to the CDC Foundation Public health is “the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This work is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases.”
Those eligible for a vaccination can visit mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine and residents can also search for a vaccination location near them by entering their zip code here. As always, seniors in the nine communities should contact their local council on aging for appointment assistance.
This past weekend, April 3-4, the Collaborative administered 1,816 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Saturday and 1,557 on Sunday, with zero wasted doses and an ongoing efficiency rate over 100% thanks to the skillful work of the pharmacy and medical staff.
The Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative comprises Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury.
JGPR is providing communications services to this effort on a pro bono basis.