Florian Hall looking at a vaccinations ramp-up

Sgt. Thomas Gibson, EMT, administered a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to Elizabeth Hoenscheid of West Roxbury at the Florian Hall clinic on Friday. Daniel Sheehan photo

Two weeks after setting up a Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Florian Hall, a team made up of Harbor Health Services staff, healthcare professionals, and National Guard personnel are envisioning a steady ramp-up of their vaccine rollout program via an anticipated supply boost from the federal government.

In noting that the site had boosted its number of daily shots to some 300-400 a day by last Friday, clinic officials estimated that around 1,500 people had been vaccinated at the Dorchester function hall through that day.

Mary Jo Brogna, director of Nursing at Harbor Health, told the Reporter last week that after a relatively slow start due to supply chain issues, the center is primed to dole out 2,000 vaccines per week in the latter stages of this month.

“Our supply chain has been challenging with the state. We get notified on Friday what our vaccine supply is going to be for the following week, so that has kind of limited the operation to figure out how many appointment slots we can open up,” she explained.

“We don’t want to open up too many and then have to call people and cancel, so that’s been one of our biggest challenges.”

Vaccinations at Florian Hall are currently available to eligible Harbor Health patients and non-patients by appointment only, with time slots being scheduled during either a morning (8:30-11:45 a.m.) or afternoon (1-3:45 p.m.) window Monday through Friday. After starting out administering shots of the Moderna vaccine, Florian Hall clinicians now possess supplies of both the Moderna and Pfizer brands of injections.

Within the next two weeks, additional supply line reinforcements from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will bolster dwindling reserves. 

“We got notified yesterday (March 11) that we qualify for HRSA supply so we’ll have the ability to get supply directly from the federal government, which is terrific,” Brogna said on Friday. “We’re looking forward to that so we can vaccinate more people...this is great news for Harbor, great news for Dorchester.”

Thomas Matta, a clinical pharmacist and Dorchester resident, has been on hand at the clinic in recent weeks helping to train National Guard service members and other staff on the basics of inoculation.

Matta, who said he has helped run flu vaccine clinics in the past, explained that his role involves “helping to make sure they understand the do’s and don’ts, helpful tips on how to administer the vaccine, what to do if a situation arises that’s not going according to plan, how to draw up doses, how to verify doses.”

Some medics in the National Guard have experience administering vaccines, Matta noted, while most EMTs have medical training but need some guidelines when it comes to giving shots.

“With Pfizer, you have to add a dilutant, so we show them how to appropriately add the dilutant while keeping it sterile. We’re making sure we’re putting an emphasis on sterility.”

Matta added that the clinic’s recent HRSA designation “means we can target the Dorchester community even more. We’ll have the ability to be more large scale...the biggest thing is serving the community, serving one of the hardest hit, most economically diverse neighborhoods in Boston.”

John Hall, a 68-year-old who grew up in Dorchester but is now a Weymouth resident, described his experience getting the vaccine as “wonderful” as he sat in the observation area at Florian last Friday. For Hall, and several others who found the streamlined process at Florian to be “super easy,” the smaller localized site offers a quick alternative compared to the state’s mass vaccination sites and sometimes unwieldy registration systems.

“I had been waiting for two months on the phone. Well, I work during the day, but my girlfriend was getting really frustrated. One morning she woke up at 4 to book a slot and they were already all gone. Then a friend of mine suggested this location and called them, and we both made appointments for today.”

Hall noted that the occasion was jarring in comparison to his previous memories of Florian Hall, the familiar gathering place down the street from where he grew up.

“It’s very strange,” he said, “because I’ve been here so many times when there were functions going on, with parties and bands.”

In the end, Hall’s reaction to finally getting the shot was one of relief. “It’s been a long year,” he said.