Northeastern faculty and alumni work to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine
Northeastern faculty and alumni worked throughout the city of Boston to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, ensuring the public would be protected and the pandemic brought closer to a close.
Northeastern’s Cabot Center was designated as an official Massachusetts vaccine distributor at the end of last year. Husky faculty worked diligently at the Cabot Center to ensure that eligible people who wanted to get the vaccine got one.
Faculty and students worked together to vaccinate patients beginning with those who were eligible under Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s distribution plan. This included health care workers and first responders.
“People were excited,” Tayla Rose said. “They were eager to sign up.”
Rose is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Health Systems Sciences and was part of the vaccination movement at Cabot from the beginning in the first week of January until it ended in March. She noted the exhilaration of the people on hand for their doses.
“There was definitely relief and excitement.” she said. “We didn’t think we’d get it until June and then you get the call. That was exciting. There was such a sense of relief, especially among the elderly. They hadn’t left their houses in a year.”
Thomas Matta echoed those sentiments. Matta ran a vaccine clinic at Dorchester’s Florian Hall, the headquarters of Boston Firefighters’ Union. He described the patients’ overall feeling as “ecstatic.”
“(People) wore masks but you knew they were smiling,” Matta said. “It was a really good feeling for us. Patients were giving high-fives. There was a general feeling of happiness.”
Matta, an assistant clinical professor and clinical pharmacist at Harbor Health Services, Inc., ran additional clinics at Quincy College in Plymouth and the Barnstable Adult Community Center in Hyannis. Matta and his team enjoyed the experience even though it was a little chaotic in the beginning. Patients who arrived to be vaccinated in the clinic’s early stages would spend 20-30 minutes from the time they checked in to the time they walked out after receiving the vaccine. That time would soon be pared down to four minutes. Vaccine administrators got faster as they got better.
“We had to make sure it was appropriate and safe,” Matta said. “There’s a level of attention to detail, make sure they’re getting the right dose. There’s having a flow, knowing who’s doing what. Knowing how many doses need to be drawn (from the vial). Knowing the safety and efficiency were there.”
There was a noted difference between getting the COVID-19 vaccine and getting another shot like one for the flu. People will often get the flu shot begrudgingly because they know it will help them ward off influenza. In this instance, people were excited and expressed their gratitude to those working at the Cabot Center.
One person asked Rose to take a picture of them receiving their vaccine. Rose was happy to oblige. It was just another way of commemorating a milestone for a grateful recipient. The volunteers were helping people get their life back after a year of not doing things they had taken for granted, like being able to hug their grandparents. She described the effort as mostly energizing.
“It was really rewarding,” she said.
Jen Van Amburgh said the experience was, “incredibly empowering.” She was glad to give the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences exposure and get the university’s attention.
“It’s important for the whole college to get that attention,” Van Amburgh said. “It highlights the providers. We need to tap the resources right here on campus.”
Van Amburgh emphasized that pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers. They are constantly on the front lines every day, not just during a pandemic. She hopes the vaccine clinic prepared the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the entire campus for the Bouvé Health Fair in October and getting a flu shot at the same time.
“The vaccination rate is low,” Van Amburgh said of the people who get the flu shot. “The fear wasn’t real unless you got (the flu).”
She also hopes Huskies will remember they are part of a large city with close contact to other people, making it all the more important to get vaccinated.
Huskies saw people who were waiting for their vaccine face other challenges. Carla Bouwmeester, an associate clinical professor who also works as a clinical pharmacist for Harbor Health Services, Inc., in Mattapan, saw the adult day health center turned into a transitional care center for patients who had been hospitalized for the virus but couldn’t return to their homes until they had two negative test results. Patients were being discharged from the hospital but couldn’t go home due to caution and concern for the other residents.
“Harbor Health met the needs of their patients by building an inpatient COVID-19 respite center specially designed for PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) participants,” Bouwmeester explained. “Patients at the respite center receive 24-hour nursing care with physicians in attendance.”