Mayor Michelle Wu's push to get more Bostonians vaccinated with a free walk-in clinic certainly ended up boosting vaccination rates within City Hall, but some Boston residents were turned away for not having an appointment Thursday while city employees rolled up their sleeves.
"This is very frustrating," Boston resident Mary Beth Marciano said. "You go on the website, it says open clinic. There isn’t anything to sign up for."
The free walk-in COVID vaccine and booster shot clinic opened in Boston City Hall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. as part of Wu's four-pronged approach to address rising COVID cases. Wu got her own booster shot at the clinic around noon.
"I feel great. I feel like I checked a big thing off my to do list," Wu said.
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A city representative who was told that NBC10 Boston witnessed several people being turned away for not having an appointment and left without receiving a booster shot said in an email that capacity at the clinic "was rapidly added and walk-ins were accepted throughout the day."
Asked whether kinks had to be worked out, Wu said yes, but noted that the city was forging new territory with the clinic.
"We are still in the learning phases, this is the first time we’ve done this kind of walk in clinic," she said. "But very quickly, we were able to make sure this was clearly a walk in, open to the public."
After the rough start, most people were happy for a convenient opportunity to get the shot.
"The ease of it and the convenience and the ability for me to get it now and not the end of the month, with omicron coming on, has been very important to me," Boston resident Matt Heller Trulli said.
The mayor's plan was outlined Monday after Wu introduced a new 17-member COVID-19 Advisory Committee, which is charged with advising city officials on how to address new variants like omicron and the anticipated winter surge. In addition to the clinic at City Hall, four high capacity clinics are slated to open ahead of the holidays.
There appeared to be kinks in the rollout of the first clinic Thursday, when residents like Marciano showed up at Boston City Hall expecting to get a shot, only to be told they needed an appointment.
Marciano, who suffers from two autoimmune disorders, had been struggling to get a booster shot for weeks amid a rising demand. She was able to ultimately book one of the limited number of walk-in appointments that were available, but others like her weren't so lucky.
People were confused about the need to book an appointment, many of which ended up being taken by the city's employees. A spokesperson for Wu declined to give a statement but said they would work to clear up the confusion Thursday.
City have officials vowed to "double down," on efforts to increase vaccination rates earlier this week, noting that nearly 70% of Bostonians are fully vaccinated at this juncture, but less than 15% of the city's Black and Latino residents fall into that category.
Wu said Boston needs to lead the way in closing the vaccination gap and getting people boosted.
"We are working against the clock right now as we see new variants coming, as we see a surge headed into the winter," she said.
Health officials and local leaders like Wu have been urging people to get vaccinated, or to receive booster shots amid growing concerns about the omicron variant. But whether the vaccines protect against the new strain remains unclear.
"I urge Bostonians to get tested, to get vaccinated, to get boosted and to work with us to close these gaps so that every person has easy access to the public health tools they need," Wu said Monday.
Booster shots are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for anyone over the age of 18 who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago, or who received the J&J vaccine at least two months ago.
On NBC10 Boston's weekly "COVID Q&A" series, experts said they aren't sure if the omicron variant can evade the existing COVID-19 vaccines or natural antibodies.
In fact, the Pfizer vaccine appears to be less effective against the omicron variant, NBC News reported. However, the drug company said Wednesday that a booster shot may offer enough added protection against omicron even though the initial two doses appear significantly less effective.
More on the Omicron Variant
Three top Boston doctors explain what they’ve learned about the new omicron variant and what it means for Massachusetts on the weekly "COVID Q&A" series.