Wilmington Health Director Blasts State’s Vaccine Rollout, Expects Town To Receive Very Little Vaccine Until Late February; Encourages 75+ Not To Wait For Town Clinics

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Health Director Shelly Newhouse expressed frustration with the state’s vaccine rollout at the Town’s Finance Committee Meting on Thursday night.

“It appears we’re not getting [vaccines] anytime soon. They’re being given to mass vaccination sites, like Gillette and Fenway,” said Newhouse. “Local Boards of Health are last on the list which is really frustrating as we do the most work. We’re forgotten about down here.” 

In response to a question from Finance Committee member and former Police Chief Bernie Nally, Newhouse said that residents 75 and older shouldn’t wait for town-run vaccine clinics.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to do anything with 75+ residents until the end of February the way it’s going,” said Newhouse. “I think you should look elsewhere. Visit www.MAimmunizations.org. Get on the site and try to get an appointment in the wee hours of the morning or really late at night. And check it all day long. They’re opening the Double Tree hotel in Danvers for appointments. Start there.” 

Newhouse even questioned whether the state will stop giving vaccines to Board of Healths all together and require residents to go to mass vaccination sites and places like CVS, Walgreens and Wegmans. She noted that if you see any other communities offering vaccines to 75+ old residents, it’s because they had leftovers after vaccinating first responders. 

“I don’t have any vaccine. I’m not hiding it or hoarding it. It hasn’t come to me yet. I put in an order for 1500 doses. I expect to only get 100 each week. I can’t move to Phase 2 until I finish Phase 1. We’ve done 70 first responders so far. I still need to finish Phase 1,” Newhouse told the Committee previously on Tuesday night. “It’s been very slow-going as it is everywhere. My department is bombarded with phone calls all day. It’s almost unmanageable. I don’t have an answer for people asking when. They’re upset. They’re angry. I don’t have it to give.”

Once/if her requests of 1500 Moderna doses start arriving and she can transition to Phase 2, Newhouse said clinics will be held at the Shriners Auditorium, where she expects to vaccinate approximately 500 residents per day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. She has plenty of volunteers — nurses and clerical — on standby and ready to go. 

While frustrated with the state, Newhouse was pleased to report that Wilmington’s COVID-19 numbers look “pretty good,” with just 164 active positive cases. 

“Our numbers are going down, which is nice. I think the post-holiday surge has ended,” she said.

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