Above: Clinic pharmacist Tara Higgins gets a first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 at Swift Community Center Monday.
The beginning of the end arrived at Swift Community Center around 7 a.m. Monday – two relatively small boxes filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. It was enough to cover the roughly 300 people on the EG schedule to get a dose on this first day of the Rhode Island regional distribution clinics for health care and certified EMS workers.
East Greenwich is one of seven regional PODs (point of dispensing) clinics, the so-called mid-state POD, serving North Kingstown, West Warwick, West Greenwich, Coventry, Warwick, Cranston, and EG.
“When we received that call early on from the Department of Health [to serve as a POD] … we had the facility, we’re centrally located. I think we felt good that we had the systems in place to support our region in this initial round,” said Town Manager Andy Nota.
While the clinic is being run by the town’s Emergency Management team – Nota (EMA director), DPW Special Projects Manager Fred Gomes (EMA deputy director) and Highway Superintendent Jim Fogel (EMA assistant) – all the participating municipalities are providing staffing help. EMS workers will be doing the vaccinating, others will be helping to check in people, etc.
Included in the staffing was the need for a doctor and a pharmacist on site for each of the clinic dates. In EG, Hub Brennan is serving as the medical director and Tara Higgins is serving as the site pharmacist for all the first-dose clinics.
“The manager called and there’s only one answer when you’re from East Greenwich and that’s yes,” said Brennan. “I knew Tara would help us so we’re happy to be here. We didn’t want Andy to have to worry about doctors or pharmacists.”
Nota said he was glad for the continuity.
Brennan has had his hands full in recent months. In addition his private practice and staffing the clinics, he’s been covering shifts at the field hospital in Cranston. He shrugged off the extra work.
“Now’s the time to step up,” he said. “This isn’t forever. It’s for several weeks but it needs to be done and we are happy to be part of it.”
Higgins said she’d been fielding a lot of questions about the vaccines.
“The stars aligned with the vaccine,” she said. “To get the DNA code early on, that was key. People get nervous about the FDA approval process. The FDA actually beefed up their staff.… All of the steps were done and it’s just the consolidation of the time frame.”
Brennan expressed concern about peoples’ reluctance to take the vaccine.
“Our inability to eradicate this virus will not be because of an ineffective vaccine. The vaccines are blockbusters. It will be that we don’t reach herd immunity because people are reluctant to get it,” he said.
Brennan said he hoped those who weren’t willing to get the vaccine would change their minds as more people get it.
“The people going first are leading by example,” he said.
Everyone who’s part of this first round of vaccinations outside of hospitals was notified by either DOH or the various municipalities and sent a confidential link to sign up for a time to get the vaccine. Right now there are six days set aside for the first round of vaccinations (the full vaccine requires two doses): Dec. 28-19, Jan. 4-5, and Jan. 11-12, with followup doses distributed 28 days later.
Vaccine slots had not filled as quickly as had been anticipated, so over the weekend the state approved casting a slightly wider net for recipients, including all police and fire personnel, the state police, and school nurses.
For Fred Gomes and Jim Fogel, who normally handle weather-type emergencies, like blizzards, for the town, getting the clinic up and running was a giant jigsaw puzzle that took countless hours. First it was going to be a Cole Middle School, but that didn’t seem like the best idea with school in session. Then they thought of trying a drive-through vaccination process at EGFD’s Station 2 on Frenchtown Road. But, as Gomes explained Monday, “We couldn’t push enough people through there so we decided to come here.”
And, with the help of partitions borrowed from the RI Blood Center (hat tip, Doc Brennan), the old Academy gymnasium was transformed into a health clinic with 10 different vaccine stations able to accommodate up to 60 people an hour.
Monday’s rollout went smoothly.
“I feel really great about it. I really do,” said Nota. “I think this is hope today. It’s actually something you can see is happening.”
For Fogel, EG’s highway superintendent and EMA assistant, working on this was a big departure and yet not quite. He’s used to juggling a number of different elements.
Still, he conceded, there were “a lot of sleepless nights thinking about this.”
Seeing it all go as planned was gratifying. “It’s working out very well,” he said. “Just seeing all the volunteers come together here, the group effort. What a team.”
Nota got the vaccine just after noon on Monday (municipal employees who work at the clinic are eligible to get the vaccine). In total, 292 people were vaccinated at Swift Monday, with no ill effects noted at the time of their release, Nota said Monday evening. The clinic will continue Tuesday from 3 to 9 p.m.
You can always count on Fred Gomes and Jim Fogel doing a great job!
Will you be posting a achedule.if what groups get vaccine when ? Most of us are being kept pretty much in the dark about this.
This is a closed clinic. But I will see what I can find out about when the public can start to get vaccinated.
I’m wondering when my father can get a vaccination, he is 87 years old and has under lying health problems, where and when would be helpful. Thank You jennifer Zwolinski ( i am Vincent’s daughter and caregiver)
Hi Jennifer. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot more information about people beyond those first named to get the vaccine: health care workers, EMTs and other first responders, and those people who are staffing the vaccination clinics. I recommend talking to your dad’s primary care doctor. Sorry I don’t have more information for you. (p.s. I live up the street on Prospect … say hi to your dad. – Elizabeth McNamara)
i LIVE IN WARWICK , AND AM 88 YEARS OLD AND MY COMPANION IS 87 AND WE HAVE NO IDEA WHEN WE CAN GET THE SHOT. WILL WE BE NOTIFIED BY PHONE , FROM CITY OF WARWICK, OR WHAT IS THE PLAN.
Hi Carl. It’s confusing and frustrating for sure, but more vaccine doses will be coming in February (not sure exactly when). According to what we could learn, Warwick is not asking for contact info at this time but here is their webpage on the vaccination process: https://www.warwickri.gov/vaccine. I hope they offer more guidance soon. EG News will be reporting on vaccine plans for EG and neighboring communities.
AtMed Treatment Center-Urgent Care in EG should be added to the list of eligible recipients. We are taking care of all the patients that the primary care offices are refusing to see in their office and many are Covid positive patients.
I believe the Dept. of Health is designating which health care providers are eligible – maybe check with them?
I am school nurse/teacher and reside in EG. How can I find out about getting vaccinated?
I would contact your school district administration. The decision to add school nurse/teachers only happened on Saturday or Sunday. Good luck. Circle back if you have trouble.
Thanks for this good news. And thanks to Tara and Hub and all others who worked at the vaccine station. Does this mean that when those of us of a “certain age” will be vaccinated there too when the time is right?
Hello Ms. McNamara- I was surprised to see this article about the clinic. I am a health care provider in the community and when I inquired to the DOH when non-hospital employed providers would be given access to the vaccine, I was told that no decisions had been made on who is in which phase of the roll out. They did not say they were providing vaccines to anyone at this point. The hospitals are vaccinating every employee, regardless of patient contact. including those who provide only tele health and those of us providing healthcare in the community cannot even find out which phase we are in for vaccination. The lack of transparency with which this is being handled is stunning.
Thanks for letting me know. I will see what more I can find out.
I’m not a healthcare worker, but I also find this stunning.vaccinate the healthcare workers/first responders first!
I work for Care.com as a healthcare worker, would I be eligible to get vaccinated ?
The first phase of vaccines at Swift have finished (they will be distributing second doses soon). According to the Dept. of Health, home health workers employed by a licensed agency are in the first phase – you would find out more through the agency. If you are an independent healthcare worker (say, a CNA who works for someone in their home), you would need to be enrolled in “an independent provider or personal program.” However, I’m not sure just what that is. Your best bet might be to ask the DOH directly – here’s a link: https://covid.ri.gov/vaccination/submit-question. We are trying to get more information and will post as we know more. – Elizabeth McNamara
My husband is 81 and has Parkinson’s and needs the Covid-19 vaccine. We’re in East Greenwich and would like to know when and where he can get the vaccine,
There is no place here in RI yet. EG News will report that information as soon as we get it. Sorry we don’t have better news.
Actually, Brenda, we have an update! Will be posting a new vaccine story today.
I need some help! My husband is do for surgery on 2/16/21 for bladder cancer, He is 86 years old, has a defibulator and is a 12 year survivor of lung cancer. I need to find out how ot sign us up asap for the vaccine. I did not find any forms on the web site , Any assistance you could give me would be appreciated, Norrene McGeary Chairman EG Board of Canvas
Hi Norene. By tomorrow I should have a phone number for you to call to put you and your husband on a list. It’s not a vaccine appointment yet but there will be more vaccine coming and he should be next in line. Check the town website or this story (https://eastgreenwichnews.com/eg-to-start-vaccinating-people-75-up/) tomorrow morning. The wait is just excruciating, I know. I hope he gets a dose soon. Best, Elizabeth
I would like to schedule an appointment for a covid vaccination. I am 83 and have HBP. My husband, John, is 86, and has had open heart surgery and lymphoma. Can we get appointments? We live in Narragansett.
You need to check with the Town of Narragansett. They are part of another POD. Not sure how Narragansett is doing it but because you are both in your 80s, you should be able to get a dose sometime in the next few weeks. Best of luck!
I am 91 years old and housebound. How would I receive the Covid vaccine? I wondered if the VNA would be able to administer the shot if you are on their service?
I will ask, Barbara.
I have pre existing condition, diabetic T1,with long term care. how can I avail of the said vaccine. will you please sign me up for the vaccine. thank you.