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Local Councils on Aging Helping Seniors Make Vaccination Appointments

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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DALTON, Mass. -- Berkshire County seniors are being assisted by their local Councils on Aging to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments electronically.

The Dalton COA began assisting elders without computer or internet access on Jan. 27 and Director Kelly Pizzi said about 300 people per business day have been helped to secure an appointment.  Recipients of the service range from Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington, Pittsfield, Lenox, Savoy, Lanesborough, and Cheshire.

The Dalton and Pittsfield Councils on Aging, as well as many other COAs, have partnered with the Berkshire County Boards of Health to help seniors ages 75 and older register for their vaccines.  There are three large community clinics they are able to access: W.E.B. Dubois Middle School in Great Barrington, Berkshire Community College Paterson Field House in Pittsfield, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Hall in North Adams. 

"In order to maintain independence and autonomy with people who have computers, we have assisted by walking people through the registration screens which is eight pages long," Pizzi said. "Unfortunately a lot of people in this age group do not have access to the internet or know how to use a computer."

Pizzi reported that although requests seem to be tapering a bit for first appointments, the agencies are now fielding calls for both first and second dosages of the vaccine. She said seniors have been so grateful for the assistance. Many were so frustrated from just trying to access the registration home page that by the time they called the COA, she said, they were nearly ready to give up the vaccine even though they had been desperate for the opportunity to get one.

"COVID-19 has been very difficult for this population," Pizzi said. "Some of the people we have been speaking with have not left their homes since mid-March 2020 when Gov. [Charlie] Baker issued the Safer at Home advisory. They just want to be able to see their friends, family and hug their grandchildren."

Executive Director of Dalton Housing Authority Susan Gregory said the housing authority has been distributing notices to all of its tenants to point them in the right direction for vaccination.

She was glad to report that several tenants had already secured vaccination appointments, but said they do have a segment of the public housing population that will need help. Gregory also suggests that family members with a computer assist seniors with the online registration.

The town of Dalton currently doesn’t have a vaccination site, but officials hope to have one in the future.

Dalton Housing Authority Board member Tom Callahan commended Berkshire Community College’s vaccination clinic for the positive experience he had there.

"Organization was wonderful, people were accommodating everybody along the way, it was just incredible," he said. "Hats off to them."

Callahan added that Central Berkshire Regional schools are also communicating "excellently" on the matter of COVID-19. Superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis has been sending out weekly communications to students and families every Friday, he said, and if there is any further information in between the weekly notices she makes sure to notify the district.

"So if you’re in the school system anyway as an employee, parent, whatever, you’re getting information first hand, up to date, all of the time," Callahan said. "It's reassuring."

Tags: COVID-19,   vaccinations,   

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