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Every weekday morning CAI brings you coverage of local issues, news, and stories that matter. Join us for Morning Edition from 6 a.m. to 9a.m., with Kathryn Eident.

Barnstable County To Discuss COVID Vaccine with 50,000 Residents Wednesday

Barnstable County and state officials will host a conference call for 50,000 Cape Cod seniors Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 5:30 to answer questions about the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

The call will be held over a phone conferencing service that will proactively call people aged 65 and over on their home phone line. Those who wish to call in, dial: 833-491-0326.

CAI's Kathryn Eident talked about this and other topics related to the COVID-19 vaccine with State Senator Julian Cyr, who's also the Cape Cod COVID-19 Relief Task Force spokesperson.

Eident Good morning, Senator, thanks for joining us.

Cyr Good morning.

Eident So there's been quite a bit of talk, as I'm sure you've been part of and heard about, about the vaccine rollout in Massachusetts and the confusion that many people experienced when the state opened appointments for people aged 75 and up. Tonight's conference call targets people 65 and up. That is a big group of people. So why target such a big group tonight?

Cyr Well, I think there's been a number of challenges with the vaccine rollout. Look, this is a pretty difficult thing to do, but I think that the biggest breakdown we've had here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a breakdown in communication to the public and just information that that that people can access.

And so, now that we basically are in Phase 2, whereas adults older than 75 are--some of them are able to get the vaccination. We've got a major supply issue we haven't been doing--I don't think the state's been doing a great job really communicating to people, answering questions. And so, what we're aiming to do here is to provide an opportunity for everyone.

So, this is targeted at adults 65 and over. But, anyone can listen in to this call. If you're someone who's trying to help a family member get an appointment, please tune in. And, we're just trying to share all the information that we have about vaccine access, how to get a vaccine, and a myriad of questions that people have.

So, this is a live call. There will be information provided by medical medical providers, public health experts. We'll hear from local officials too, Congressman Keating will be joining us, State Representative Sarah Peake. But, this is really about providing as much information as we can to the public so that they can know how to really access this this lifesaving and pretty miraculous vaccine that that we have.

Eident Mm hmm. Can participants ask questions or will this be more of a kind of a presentation delivered to folks who listen in on this call?

Cyr Yes. So, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Certainly, you know, we're going to we're aiming for about a 45-minute call. So, we're not going to be able to answer every question, but there'll be a presentation, which will be about half of the call, and then we'll actually transition to taking live questions from callers.

Eident Mm hmm. And I'm sure there are so many questions. I know we here at CAI have had a lot of questions ourselves and have been doing quite a bit of work to get to the bottom of these.

And, as you mentioned, one of the big issues here is the supply chain, right? We can only get so many doses. And it sounds like Barnstable County will be receiving 975 doses a week. But at that rate, it's going to take months to get everybody vaccinated in the 65 years and up demographic.

Cyr So broadly, the supply issue is the broadest issue why we don't have vaccine widely available. We're really hoping that's changing and we expect that's going to change, both from what we've heard from the vaccine manufacturers and from from the federal government. It has made a world of difference to have the Biden-Harris administration stepping in here. There was a real inaptitude in the prior administration and that did not help.

That number, that 970 number, that's actually how many vaccines come in a package from Pfizer, so that's what that number is. So, we're able to basically get one of those packages to Barnstable County, but Cape Cod Health Care, community health centers, local boards of health, and pharmacies are also receiving vaccine.

So, the aim today is to share all the information we have. We know that this has been frustrating. I think the level of communication has been unacceptably poor from the state. And so, we're trying to just rectify that here locally to say, "All right, we've got we've got more older adults on Cape Cod than anywhere else in Massachusetts." Actually, Barnstable County is the third oldest county in the country. So, we're just trying to make sure that we're reaching people, particularly those who, you know, may not have Internet access or a tech savvy or have a family member who can help them navigate the vaccine, find a vaccine.

Eident Well, the county has set up a hotline. And, I talked with somebody last week, or earlier this week or in the last couple of weeks. Everything's blurring together these days [laugh]. A helpline that has been besieged with phone calls. But, there was also some talk about turning that helpline eventually into an appointment hotline because Internet access has been something we've talked quite a bit about with folks who are especially in that elderly category, who may not just not, if they have access, they may not just have the technical savvy to be able to get in on the state website and get those appointments that fill up so quickly. So, is that still in the works to get that helpline into also an appointment line?

Cyr Well, that's the aim of why we're having this call. That's just, you know, you dial in one simple number and it's very little access. And, the hope actually is the state is going to have an appointment line. I'm still waiting for that information from the administration. Iif we can use our hotline to schedule appointments, I think we will aim to do that.

But, you know, really, you know, folks shouldn't be feeling bad if they're tech savvy, right? Like I've heard from scores of younger people who've been trying to help a grandparent or a loved one line up on the site that the state is established and they can't figure it out. So, you know, there was some clear missteps here.

We're trying to, you know, focus in a constructive way to get information out there to provide tools to help people. I was thrilled to you were talking about, you know, what the kid was trying to do in particularly for those most vulnerable people who may not have someone to help them get to a testing site. So, that all of the work that we're trying to get done, and the aim today is just to share all the information we have.

You know, unfortunately, we're not in a position where we will have just a wide supply of vaccine for the next several weeks. But, I think it's really important that we share all the information that we have, help people make a plan to get a vaccine, and we're working in a coordinated way. And so that's what we're aiming to do.

Eident All right. And that conference call once again is tonight at 5:30. And those folks on the Cape who are 65 and up should expect a call to come in. The phone conferencing service will call them. If you don't get that call, or you're another age and you want to call in the number is 833-491-0326.

State senator Julian Cyr, also a member of the Regional COVID Task Force. Thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

Cyr Take good care.

Eident Bye bye.

This transcript was lightly edited for grammar and clarity. 

Kathryn Eident is an award-winning journalist and hosts WCAI's Morning Edition. She began producing stories for WCAI in 2008 as a Boston University graduate student reporting from the Statehouse. Since then, Kathryn’s work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times, Studio 360, Scientific American, and Cape and Plymouth Business Magazine.