Friday, May 24, 2024

The city’s health department will hold nine Covid-19 and influenza vaccination clinics in October and November. (Photo: Cambridge Health Alliance via Twitter)

The number of new Covid-19 infections in Cambridge remains relatively low but has been rising in a vulnerable population: residents in some of the city’s seven nursing homes and assisted-living centers. The city has reported 21 new cases in long-term care since Aug. 11, with 11 of them on Friday. Levels seen in Cambridge wastewater are also increasing.

Amid these signs that the pandemic is not over, the city’s health department will hold nine Covid-19 and influenza vaccination clinics in October and November when residents can get free shots by appointment, including the new Covid booster designed to protect against the original Covid-19 virus and the omicron variant. Details are here.

Cambridge Health Alliance began offering free shots of the new booster to patients starting Sept. Monday in Malden and will provide daily flu and Covid vaccine clinics, including some during evening hours, until Oct. 8. CHA told patients they could make an appointment on its patient portal, MyChart. The public can get free flu and Covid vaccinations, including the new boosters, at outpatient pharmacies at Cambridge Hospital, East Cambridge and Malden during business hours and at afternoon clinics in Everett, Malden and Revere, depending on the day, the Alliance said.

Despite the flurry of vaccination options, the latest vaccination figures for residents and staff of the nursing homes in Cambridge – Sancta Maria Nursing Facility, Cambridge Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, and Neville Center at Fresh Pond – show that many residents and some employees have not gotten all the booster shots for which they’re eligible. No data is available for the new bivalent booster, which was approved only Aug. 31. Assisted-living centers don’t have to report vaccination data to the federal or state government.

The most recent federal vaccination report, for the week ending Sept. 4, said only 76 percent of residents and 57 percent of staff at Sancta Maria were up to date on vaccinations, which includes boosters. Sancta Maria reported six new cases among residents and fewer than five new cases among workers on Sept. 16, according to figures posted by the state health department. (The city does not identify facilities where there are new infections). On Sept. 12, the nursing home reported fewer than five new cases among residents and fewer than five among staff – vague figures that result from a state privacy policy of not disclosing exact numbers under five cases.

No new cases have been reported recently at the other two facilities, Neville Center or Cambridge Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, yet some residents are not up to date on vaccinations. At Neville Center, 82 percent have been fully vaccinated and boosted; at Cambridge Rehabilitation, 72 percent. All staff at Cambridge Rehabilitation and 99 percent at Neville Center are up to date with boosters.

Youville House, the assisted-living center on Cambridge St., has also reported a scattering of new resident cases in the past two months, starting with six new infections Aug. 1. The facility also reported fewer than five new resident cases on Aug. 8, Aug. 26 and Sept. 13.

Long-term care facilities and public health officials launched a vigorous campaign to vaccinate residents after Covid-19 vaccines were approved in 2020, and an average 95 percent of nursing-home residents per facility in Massachusetts have gotten primary protection from two shots of mRNA vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to federal data. Facilities faced penalties if employees were not vaccinated, so 98 percent of nursing home staff per nursing home in Massachusetts have received their primary one or two shots.

But when it came to booster shots, vaccination rates fell. In Massachusetts, an average 75 percent of nursing home residents per facility are fully vaccinated and boosted, and 74 percent of employees, according to the most recent federal data.

The newly approved bivalent booster is meant to replace former booster shots; federal officials now recommend that everyone 12 and older get the bivalent vaccine. The city health department still has a supply of “old” boosters and will use it to vaccinate residents who haven’t received their first or second mRNA shot, Baxter said. The former boosters can also be given to children from 5 to 11, who aren’t yet eligible for the new booster, she said.