Rochester Council on Aging plans vaccine trips for seniors

Feb 16, 2021

ROCHESTER — After the town’s efforts to coordinate a covid-19 vaccination site fell through due to lack of state support, the Rochester Council on Aging decided to take matters into its own hands.

Selectman Woody Hartley, who is also a member of the Council on Aging’s board of directors, announced during the Feb. 16 Board of Selectmen meeting that the COA will be helping eligible seniors book vaccine appointments at the Gillette Stadium mass vaccination site in Foxborough and transporting them there.

Hartley explained that more than 100 Rochester residents over age 75 have called the senior center in the last few weeks looking for vaccine information. Of 102 seniors who have called and been put on a list, Hartley said only 21 have been vaccinated so far.

“Beginning today, we are calling every single one of them back, and we are going to ask them if they are willing to go to Gillette,” Hartley said. “We will make appointments with them [...] and we will transport them to Gillette.” 

Hartley emphasized that transportation in the senior van would involve “always social distancing properly.” The COA will transport its first senior to Gillette Stadium to be vaccinated on Wednesday, Feb. 17, he said.

Volunteers will be calling seniors aged 75 and older who are on the senior center’s list in the coming days, Hartley said. 

“If there are people out there who are not on that list, and they’re 75 and older and live in Rochester, call the senior center tomorrow and get on the list,” he said. “We’ll call everybody back as soon as we can.”

The Council on Aging can be reached at (508) 763-8723.

Other Rochester officials expressed frustration about the state guidance on covid-19 vaccinations during the meeting. The state’s decision to prioritize giving doses of the vaccine to state-controlled mass vaccination sites and commercial pharmacies over clinics led by healthcare systems and towns meant Rochester officials’ weeks spent planning a vaccination site were futile, Selectman Paul Ciaburri said.

“We were ready, but everything just fell apart,” Ciaburri said. “And it’s kind of maddening because everybody’s wondering, and it’s hard to put out any information because it’s changing so rapidly.”

He also noted that this month’s expected approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which requires only one dose — was promising.

“When that vaccine becomes available and we get our allotment, we will be giving that out,” Ciaburri said. “We will be doing it.”

In the meantime, Hartley said the COA will do what it can.

“We will get as many [seniors age 75 and older], who want to be inoculated, inoculated as fast as we can,” Hartley said.