The COVID vaccine in our community; resources for older adults

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is encouraging people to get the Coronavirus vaccine. We are also providing reliable information about the vaccine on the following topics:

  • When can I get the vaccine?
  • Where can I get the vaccine?
  • What documentation do I need for eligibility?
  • Transportation to Vaccine appointments
  • General Information about the vaccine
  • Public Health Recommendations for fully vaccinated people
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Resources in different languages about the vaccine.

 

When can I get the vaccine?  

Supplies of the vaccine are limited, and the state is making it available in phases.

Phase 1 started in December and includes staff and residents at Long Term Care Facilities– such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities– along with healthcare workers, first responders, and congregate care settings (such as shelters and corrections).

Phase 1 also includes home-based healthcare workers, which covers SCES staff who interact with older adults as part of their job. We are encouraging our staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

All people in Phase 1 are eligible to receive the vaccination.

 

Phase 2 All adults age 65-and-up became eligible for the vaccine as Feb. 18. People who are age 16 and older with certain medical conditions also became eligible on Feb. 18.

A person who accompanies someone who is 75-and-up to a vaccine site can also schedule and receive their own vaccination on that same day.

Phase 2 also includes residents at affordable or low-income senior housing and a wide range of essential workers.

People age 60 and over are eligable to sign up for vaccine appointments starting March 22.

People age 55 and over and people with one qualifying medical condition can sign up for appointments, starting April 5.

Phase 3 will make the vaccine available to people age 16 and over, starting April 19.

Click here for more information about eligibility.

 

How can I get a vaccine appointment?

All locations currently require an appointment, and there are different ways to find one. You can preregister for a mass vaccination appointment or go through retail pharmacies, health care providers, or other community locations. There is also a call center to help people who are unable to access the vaccine appointment website.

Preregistering at mass vaccination sites

The Commonwealth’s preregistration page helps people request and schedule appointments at the state’s seven mass vaccination sites.

Once you sign up for preregistration, you’ll receive weekly status updates. You can opt out at any time if you find an appointment elsewhere.

Due to limited supply, the state is cautioning it will take several weeks to be notified about available appointments at mass vaccination locations. Once an appointment is available, you’ll be contacted with the opportunity to book the appointment and have 24 hours to accept it.

Booking online

The state vaccine finder page lists all vaccination locations, and can be searched by town or zip code. Appointment availability is also listed for some local Board of Health and CVS sites. For locations not providing availability, click “Details” to visit their scheduling link for appointment information.

Call Center 

The Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line was established to help individuals without internet access schedule appointments at local pharmacies and mass vaccination sites. Call center workers will have the same access to appointments that users will see on the public website.

The Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line at 2-1-1 is available in English and Spanish and will have translators available to support residents in approximately 100 additional languages.

To access the call center:

  • call 2-1-1 and follow prompts to reach The Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line. The line is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM – 5 PM.
  • Once connected with a representative, the caller will be asked to confirm he/she is eligable for the vaccine.
  • Call-takers will then use the state’s COVID-19 vaccine site map to find nearby locations and determine whether appointments are available.
  • If no appointments are available within a distance the caller can travel, callers will be offered the chance to be placed on a call-back list for the mass vaccination sites. Residents will receive a call-back as appointments become available at these sites.
  • Due to high demand and limited supply, callers may experience significant wait times.

Mass Vaccination Sites

The state currently has seven mass vaccination sites. Click here for more information.

  • Hynes Convention Center: Open 9 to 5, seven days a week
  • Gillette Stadium: Monday – Friday, 8AM – 6PM; Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 5pm
  • Reggie Lewis Center: Monday – Friday, 12pm-6pm; Saturday 10am-4pm
  • DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers,
  • Eastfield Mall in Springfield
  • Natick Mall
  • former Circuit City in Dartmouth.

Note: the Fenway vaccination site closed on March 27.

Homebound vaccinations

In-home vaccinations are available for homebound people who are not able to leave their home to get to a vaccination site, even with assistance. These individuals either:

  • Have considerable difficulty and/or require significant support to leave the home for medical appointments
  • Require ambulance or two-person assistance to leave the home
  • Are not able to leave the home for medical appointments under normal circumstances

If you are eligible for an in-home vaccination, you can call the Homebound Vaccination Central Intake Line at (833) 983-0485.

You will be able to speak with a representative who will ask questions to determine if an in-home vaccination is appropriate. If in-home vaccination is appropriate, you will be registered with the State Homebound Vaccine Provider or referred to your local Board of Health.

Some Local Boards of Health will manage a homebound vaccination program for their community and can be contacted directly regarding in-home vaccination.

Click here for more information.

Pharmacy Clinics 

The state has announced a number of public/private partnerships to provide the vaccine.

CVS  is offering vaccine appointments locally at 215 Alewife Brook Parkway in Cambridge.   Click here to sign up for an appointment.

Walgreens is also offering vaccine appointments through their company website.

Health Care Providers

These vaccine clinics are currently only available to patients with a primary care physician in that system.

  • Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is not currently scheduling new appointments. Anyone with a scheduled appointment will not be cancelled.

 

  • Mt. Auburn Hospital (MAH) patients are eligible for the vaccine through Beth Israel and will be contacted for their appointment.
  • Harvard Vanguard/Atrius Health— has very limited doses and will be contacting their patients to schedule, but they suggest obtaining an appointment at a mass vaccination site.
  • Mass General Brigham – Statement from website: “Starting March 1, Mass General Brigham will resume offering limited new appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine to patients who are eligible under the current phase of the state’s vaccine distribution plan. Due to continued vaccine supply constraints, Massachusetts has been working to continue to streamline COVID-19 vaccine distribution and to align hospital and health system needs to support the state’s rollout.We will contact groups of eligible patients through Patient Gateway, email, or text message to schedule vaccine appointments. We are scheduling all vaccine appointments through a central scheduling center. Please do not contact your doctor’s office about vaccine appointments.Based on supply, we will invite eligible patients to schedule appointments, using a fair, random process. It may take time before you receive your invitation and are able to schedule your appointment. Please be patient. We are working closely with state officials to ensure that we receive a steady supply of vaccine to schedule appointments every week.”

The cites of Cambridge and Somerville are also providing regular updates on local vaccination information.

Cambridge Call 617-349-9789 to reach a voicemail line is managed by the Cambridge Council on Aging. Callers can request information about the vaccine and will receive a call back from COA staff.

Somerville has launched phone lines that residents can call to listen to recorded updates on COVID-19 vaccine information. Five lines, each with a different language, are available. Because vaccination information is changing rapidly, these lines will be updated frequently and will only provide the latest information. To sign up for phone/email/text alerts, visit their website or call 311.

Additional languages:
• Spanish Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3252
• Portuguese Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3253
• Haitian Creole Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3254
• Nepali Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3255

 

What documentation will I need?

When scheduling your appointment or at the time of the appointment, you will be required to review vaccine eligibility criteria and confirm (or attest) that you are eligible to receive the vaccine (e.g., you are age 65 or older). The attestation will be done:

▪ verbally over the phone,
▪ verbally or in writing at the vaccination site,
▪ online if using an online appointment scheduling tool, or
▪ with the COVID-19 Massachusetts Vaccination Attestation Form.

At the time of scheduling and/or at your appointment you may be asked for the following information:

▪ Insurance card. Vaccination is free whether you have insurance or not. If you have insurance, please bring that information with you to the appointment.
▪ Government-issued identification or license.

You may get a vaccine even if you do not have a driver’s license or a Social Security number.

You will never be asked for a credit card number to make an appointment.

 

Transportation to Appointments 

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is offering free transportation, via one of SCES’ transportation providers, for local older adults to COVID-19 vaccination sites in Cambridge, Somerville and adjacent communities. Click here for more details.

General Information About the Vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a COVID-19 vaccine page, which includes a variety of resources about the vaccine and getting vaccinated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration COVID-19 vaccine page includes news updates and fact sheets about the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use.

Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first set of public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people in early March.

The guidance will be updated and expanded based on the level of community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines.

For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or ≥2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson [J&J]/Janssen ).

The following recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings.

Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic

For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
Click here for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do we know the vaccine is safe? Vaccines are the most-tested pharmaceuticals, and the result of a rigorous development process and clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people. In approving the vaccines for emergency use, the Food and Drug Administration determined that the known and potential benefits of these vaccines outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19.

Are there side effects? Yes. Some people who get the vaccine reported side effects, usually mild and more common after the second dose. These side effects are the result of your body creating an immune response. Side effects may start 1-2 days after the vaccine and last on average 2-3 days. It is important to note in the clinical trials that fewer older people reported side effects.

The most common were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, muscle or joint pain, and chills or fever. If you have concerns, we encourage you to contact your Primary Care Doctor with specific questions about the vaccine and your unique medical history.

What should people do if they have asthma, allergies or other lung problems? According to the doctors at Cambridge Health Alliance, people who have these medical issues should absolutely get the vaccine. People with asthma, allergies or other lung conditions could get very sick or die from COVID-19. The only people who should not get a vaccine are people who have severe allergic reactions to a component of the vaccine. Other than the active mRNA ingredient, the vaccines are simply made of fats, salts, sugar, vinegar and certain glycerols.

I have other questions…  SCES is happy to connect you with reliable information, vaccine rollout updates and assistance. We will update this page as new information becomes available. As we learn more, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services may be able to help with scheduling and transportation for vaccination appointments.

 

Helpful Links

Questions about Getting the COVID Vaccine? — The Boston Globe 

Have doubts about getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Here are some FAQsPBS affiliate WHYY

What to expect at your vaccination appointmentCenters for Disease Control and Prevention

VIDEO: How do the COVID vaccines work? – Boston Medical Center CNO Nancy Gaden

FAQ from Tufts Medical Center which is also available in Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.