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Berkshire County First-Responder Vaccinations Going Well
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
01:26AM / Friday, January 22, 2021
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The vaccination setup for first-responders at the Paterson Field House at Berkshire Community College.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Members of the Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee have had positive experiences with first-responder vaccinations and reported that the distribution sites are working swimmingly.

With Point of Distribution Grant funding, which is a competitive grant that the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency offered across the commonwealth, all three regional emergency planning committees (REPC) in Berkshire County (Northern, Central, Southern) were able to purchase supplies for vaccination distribution.

There are three vaccination sites for first responders located in the North, Central, and South regions of Berkshire County.

The original intent of the grant was to buy equipment that would enhance the REPCs' abilities to distribute emergency supplies to the general public during a large scale disaster.  The Central Berkshire REPC planned to purchase "Connex boxes," or storage containers to hold basic essentials such as bottled water, ready-to-eat meals, and tarps so that if a major disaster happened locally, they could rapidly distribute these items while waiting for additional supplies to arrive.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, grant funds were re-purposed to purchase tents, tables, chairs, traffic control devices, traffic cones, sandwich boards with changeable letters, and a trailer to haul the items with the thought of using the supplies for traffic flow control during vaccination programs.

Post-COVID-19, these items can still be used for large-scale distribution planning.

After the first responder vaccinations are completed, these items are intended to be used for the vaccination of the general public. An inventory will be taken of all the items to make sure everything is accounted for and a memo will be sent to representatives of the central Regional Emergency Planning Committee so they know it is available.

"I think the next big push is going to be for general citizens to get their immunizations and that's going to be a tough big sell," Chairman Robert Czerwinski said at Wednesday's CBREPC meeting.

Hinsdale Police Chief Susan Rathbun had her vaccination last week. She reported that a number of Hinsdale officers opted out of the vaccination to her surprise.

"It was very streamlined," she said. "Very easy, there was absolutely positively no wait, it was a very simple process. They should be proud of the way they did it."

Lenox Fire Chief Chris O'Brien said about 70 percent of his department has opted to get vaccinated and Lenox Police Chief Stephen O'Brien said only a few officers have opted out.

Pittsfield Fire Chief Thomas Sammons said the vaccination site at Berkshire Community College's field house is using one table, four chairs, and a tent from the supply trailer. He said they have used supplies from different trailers and it has been working out well.

"The resources that we got, we are putting them to use," Sammons said.

Czerwinski liked the idea of the Connex boxes that were originally planned but thinks this purchase of equipment is truly practical for what is needed right now.

Director of Williamstown Public Works Chris Lemoine's employees will be part of Phase 2 for vaccinations. He said he also has some individuals who are reluctant about the vaccine, about three out of 25 employees, but is still looking at an 80 percent participation rate.

"I've actually had an opportunity to be at all three, North Central, and South at some point in time and everybody has just done a phenomenal job," Lt. Col. Thomas Grady of the sheriff's office said.

Grady's team was able to receive the vaccine at the sheriff's office because it has a medical department. The office received 100 doses two weeks ago and distributed those. On Tuesday, it received another 300 doses and will finish all employees' first rounds this Friday. Grady said the second vaccination rounds are already scheduled.

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