State suspends distribution of first vaccine doses to town-run clinic

Feb 17, 2021

The town-run vaccination clinic at the Dartmouth High School is no longer eligible to give out first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a Feb. 17 announcement from the Board of Health.

Starting March 1, the commonwealth will no longer be providing first dose vaccines to individual municipal clinics — other than those in high-risk areas including Boston and New Bedford.

But those who have already received their first dose through the town’s clinic will be able to return for their second dose, according to a statement from the Dartmouth Police Department.

The news comes after the state announced a mass vaccination site at the former Circuit City in Dartmouth, and after suspending first doses of the vaccine for a Southcoast Health clinic at the VF Outlet on Faunce Corner Road.

A Feb. 17 letter published on the town’s website from state Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders to local health officials noted that vaccine “demand vastly exceeds current supply.”

The letter goes on to note that as of Feb. 15, just over half of the state’s elderly population has received the first dose.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Feb. 17 that effective Thursday, those aged 65 or older or with two or more specific medical conditions (listed on the website) will become eligible for the vaccine alongside residents and staff of senior housing. 

This will add one million more people to those already eligible for the vaccine.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is deeply thankful for municipal collaboration in the early, targeted steps of the vaccination effort,” Sudders wrote in the letter.

She added that going forward, “the Administration must streamline the vaccine distribution process in anticipation of this challenge and within the confines of limited vaccine supply provided by the federal government.”

In the meantime, Sudders stated, local officials may be able to provide the vaccine to certain vulnerable populations, including those unable to travel, or in regional collaborations serving areas that are not close to state vaccination sites.

Thus far Massachusetts has received around 110,000 first doses of the vaccine each week from the U.S. government.