As Massachusetts continues its vaccine rollout, Roxbury's Reggie Lewis Center was transformed Saturday into a mass vaccination site with a focus on serving communities of color in Boston.
CIC Health took over the site from the City of Boston, which had been operating it since the beginning of February. The Cambridge company, which is also spearheading mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park, is expanding capacity at the Roxbury Community College site.
Following a soft opening, the site officially opened to the public Saturday and will target residents in Boston's neighborhoods, including Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Roslindale.
Knowing that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Brown communities, city and state elected officials joined together Saturday as the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition is partnering with CIC Health in a campaign to raise awareness in communities of color about getting the vaccine.
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To lessen skepticism within minority communities, the Reggie Lewis Center vaccination site has hired a Black site manager, Black doctors, and volunteers and translators from the community.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley says that kind of representation matters.
“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. That there is efficacy and integrity to this,” Pressley said.
To increase trust in communities of color where healthcare and vaccine skepticism is at a premium, hiring Black doctors has been critical.
“We’ve heard a lot of people say I’m going back to my friends and my family and I'm letting them know about my experience I’ve had here today,” said one doctor.
“I enjoyed it. I’m coming back for my second one in three weeks and I’ll be good,” one man said.
“The fact that my brothers were here giving it to me, they ensured me that I can trust it,” another man said.
The Reggie Lewis Center has a staff that speaks different languages, employs a Black and Brown workforce, and, in the heart of Roxbury, is accessible.
“It makes a difference that this is available in a community of color that people can have easier access to,” one woman said.
Access for those disproportionately effected is quickly improving, as is confidence in getting the vaccine.
“What I saw here today was not that people were hesitant. But people who were waiting for the opportunity to be centered, listened to and focused on,” another woman said.
People from surrounding neighborhoods say it feels great to have a spot in the community that gets it done, and there is clear evidence the outreach being done is working. More Black and Latino appointments have been scheduled here in one week than have been done since the vaccine rollout began.
Vaccine Equity in Massachusetts
To make it an equitable effort, vaccinations come at no cost and are available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on signing up at the Reggie Lewis Center, click here.
The site in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood --which will be open for another six months -- is currently able to inoculate about 800 people per day, with the goal of administering up to 2,500 shots daily before the end of March. This all comes as state health officials announced Saturday more than half a million residents in the commonwealth are now fully vaccinated against the virus.