By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Like every community, Westwood has seen its fair share of COVID cases. Almost a year ago, the virus put a stop to everyone’s normal routines. Now with vaccines rolling out and an increased urgency to return to normal, multiple teams in Westwood, including the Fire Department, the Council on Aging, and the Board of Health, have organized a clinic to vaccinate as many residents as possible.
Local seniors have benefited from having a site just a short drive from their homes. Rather than having to navigate complicated state websites to sign up and wait in long lines, seniors can easily access their town website. “We’re so blessed that we became a site. So many of our seniors don’t want to go to Gillette. It’s too daunting for them; they feel more comfortable coming to us. This is our third week and it’s gone as smooth as glass. It’s fabulous. If people need a ride we can give them a ride to our center. People have really, truly appreciated the option,” explained Council on Aging Director Lina Arena-DeRosa.
After finding out that there was a local clinic with vaccines, residents signed up in droves. At one point, the waiting list for the vaccine had over 803 people on it. “We’ve given just over 350 vaccines,” said Westwood Fire Chief John Deckers. While this number may seem small, it’s important to keep in mind that Westwood was only allocated 100 vaccines each week for their municipal clinic. They’ve used almost every single one they’ve been given since the clinic's start.
Officials in local communities were asked by state officials to be prepared to vaccinate their entire population, if need be. “We were prepared to do that. When we were limited to a hundred doses a week, that was easy. We just kept with that pace hoping the supply chain would pick up and we would be able to do between 750 to 1000 a week and be done with the entire town in less than four months. As we saw, that never came fruition,” explained Chief Deckers.
Due to an order by Governor Charlie Baker, the Westwood COVID-19 clinic will no longer be receiving or scheduling first COVID-19 doses for local residents. In an update published to the Westwood town website, organizers assured that those who have received their first vaccine will receive the second dose at the clinic. “The Board of Health has been notified by the Commonwealth that we will no longer be supplied with vaccines for first dose clinics. If you have previously received the first dose at the Westwood Senior Center, you will be provided a 2nd dose. Any future first dose clinics for 75+ residents on our waitlist will be scheduled ONLY if we have vaccines available,” the notice reads.
Despite the change in location for the first doses, Westwood’s Council on Aging is there to provide help to seniors who made need aid in navigating the signup. “We encourage people to not be afraid of the vaccine. We have yet to see any cases of an adverse reaction to it,” explains Arena-DeRosa. Though there have been outside cases of allergic reactions and severe symptomatic reactions, none of these have been seen in the patients who visited the Westwood clinic. “We’re really pleased with it.”
Though the Westwood clinic only took in a few hundred individuals, the impact of being vaccinated signals a return to a less fearful life. As more people receive vaccines, cases of COVID-19 will continue to decrease. By this time next year, we all may be back to living without masks - and without fearing for the safety of our loved ones and ourselves.