The Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury has opened as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site. The site is focusing on vaccinating communities of color—a population which has been generally underserved in the vaccine rollout.
The site opened to the public on Saturday, Feb. 27, after a two-day soft launch beginning on Thursday, Feb. 25.
The site is now being run by CIC Health—the company which is also heading up the mass vaccination sites at Fenway Park in Boston and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough—after being run by the City of Boston for the month of February.
The vaccination site has taken many steps to decrease skepticism regarding vaccination among communities of color. Among the site’s staff are a Black medical site manager, Black doctors, community volunteers and translators, and individuals who speak multiple languages.
The Reggie Lewis Center is located at Roxbury Community College. Because the site is in the heart of Roxbury, it is easily accessible to the Boston neighborhoods it is targeting—these include Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale, and Dorchester.
Additionally, half of the appointments available at the site are being put aside for residents who live in these areas. With current plans to administer 800 shots a day at the site and future plans to ramp up to 2,500 shots, this number is substantial. The site will also establish a phone bank to contact residents in the area to aid them in booking their appointments.
“Our objective is to make sure that we get as many people within this Roxbury community vaccinated as possible,” said lead operations manager Tiffany Martin, according to the Boston Herald. “We want to do it safely. We want to do it effectively.”
During the first few days of the site’s official opening, Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition—a group that consists of more than 250 Black leaders of many domains—booked shots for almost 800 Black and Latino residents.
A study involving researchers from UMass Boston found in mid-January that nearly half of Black residents of Boston said they definitely or probably do not plan to receive the vaccine—over 25 percent of Latinx respondents answered in the same way.
According to the weekly Massachusetts COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 5 percent of Massachusetts residents who have received their first dose of the vaccine are Black, and 5.3 percent of those who are fully vaccinated are Black. 4.4 percent of individuals who have received the first dose of the vaccine are Hispanic, while 4.1 percent of those who have been fully vaccinated are Hispanic.
Contrastingly, 69.8 percent of the individuals who have received the first dose of the vaccine are white, and 67.2 percent of those who are fully vaccinated are white as well. This data refers to vaccinations that have occurred in the state of Massachusetts as of Thursday, March 4.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley spoke to the Reggie Lewis site’s efforts to increase trust in the vaccine among communities of color.
“You need those health care professionals who look like you, operate in cultural competency, who can debunk a lot of that misinformation and let them know that we were represented in these clinical trials,” said Congresswoman Pressley according to NBC Boston.
The Boston Herald reports that Kim Janey—Boston City Council President, Acting-Mayor-in-waiting, and the woman set to be Boston’s first Black chief executive—also spoke to the importance of representation in the vaccination rollout.
“Those who are hardest hit by this pandemic have to be front and center when it comes to making sure they have the treatment needed,” said President Janey. “[It’s] not just equitable access to the vaccine, they’ve got to have confidence and trust. That happens when they walk through the door and they see people like them, who have been through similar situations.”
In order to learn if you are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and to book your appointment, visit: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.