Sunday, May 26, 2024

The city is preparing to expand vaccinations to include 12- to 15-year-olds. (Photo: Cambridge Public Health Department via Twitter)

The Cambridge Public Health Department is preparing a plan to vaccinate students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School once federal officials give final approval to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to adolescents from 12 to 15 years old, expected Wednesday. The department is working with the newly operational Metro North regional vaccine collaborative, which includes the Cambridge Health Alliance and Tufts University, health department chief medical officer Dr. Lisa Dobberteen told city councillors Monday.

Dobberteen responded to a question from vice mayor Alanna Mallon that captured the high anticipation of some parents at the prospect of getting their teenagers vaccinated. Mallon noted that the Food and Drug Administration had approved Pfizer for 12- to 15-year-olds that day – Monday – and said: “There’s a lot of parents right now who wonder where to bring their children tomorrow to be vaccinated.” Metro North collaborative vaccination sites in Somerville and Medford are open for walk-up vaccinations, she said. “Do you know when they are available for walk-up for Pfizer for 12- to 15-year-olds? Tomorrow? Is there an announcement?”

The approval faces one more hurdle: a favorable decision by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, expected Wednesday, Dobberteen said. After that, “there will be active planning and announcements about when 12- to 15-year-olds will be accepted at any of the Metro North collaborative sites,” she said.

The health department is “actively engaged in planning” with the collaborative “on an effort to target Cambridge Rindge and Latin students, and we should have news about that,” Dobberteen said. “Very exciting time, and parents, just hang on a bit longer and we’ll get the shots in your kids’ arms.”

Another death, more vaccinations

In contrast to the hopeful news about expanding vaccinations to adolescents, the city announced Monday that another resident has died from Covid-19, bringing the total to 123 deaths. The number had remained at 121 deaths from March 2 to April 26. Most of those who have died – 76 of the 123 – were residents of long-term care facilities who died during the first surge of the pandemic last spring. Since then the number of deaths among people living in the community have increased slowly. The two additional residents who have died since April 26 did not live in long-term care facilities. The health department declined to provide their ages and gender “to protect the families’ privacy,” spokeswoman Susan Feinberg said.

On the topic of vaccinations, 435 people received shots of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at five health department clinics during the first week in May, chief public health officer Claude Jacob told councillors. The walk-up clinics at a North Cambridge church and the CambridgeSide mall were targeted to residents of neighborhoods with higher cases, but Jacob said the department didn’t yet have detailed demographic information about those who received the shots.

At one clinic, on May 5 at the mall, more than 60 percent of the vaccine recipients were Cambridge residents, and 83 percent either lived or worked here, Jacob said. About 40 percent were under 40 years old and the majority were men; “we are trying to understand what that means for messaging and outreach,” he said.

Jacob acknowledged that “we are not seeing the foot traffic [that we did] when we first started vaccinating.” He added that “we are reaching a point over the next few weeks” when “we recognize” that some people who were formerly eager to get vaccinated “have already done so.”

Clinics continue

The department is collaborating with community organizations to offer a vaccination clinic Saturday at the Cambridge Community Center in the Riverside neighborhood, the second clinic at the neighborhood site. Mallon, who had pushed for the department to offer mobile vaccination options such as a vaccine “bus,” only to have the idea rejected, praised the neighborhood site.

“The Cambridge Community Center has a built-in constituency and they are a trusted person. I love that we’re partnering with them directly,” she said.

“I’m disappointed we’re not getting a bus,” she said. “I hope we move forward with some of the really intense and intentional collaborations with the folks on the ground that are already doing the work. Get more shots in arms.”