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PREVIEW: Fenway Park to become second mass vaccination site in Massachusetts

At Fenway Park, you can’t order any souvenirs, popcorn or peanuts. But you can get a shot from the bar.

Shots are extracted from Pfizer vials at the Samuel Adams Bar at Fenway. LILY KEPNER/DFP STAFF

Friday, Boston’s beloved Fenway Park took on a novel role as the second mass vaccination site in the state — just a walk away from the Charles River Campus.

The site is operated by CIC Health — a Cambridge-based health-tech company that launched in August 2020 out of Cambridge Innovation Center — which also manages vaccinations at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Because the state covers vaccination costs and the federal government pays for the vaccines themselves, immunization through CIC is free.

The ballpark makes for an ideal vaccination clinic, Sarah McKenna, Boston Red Sox senior vice president of fan services and entertainment, said during a press conference.

“No doubt Fenway has this amazing emotional impact on the region,” she said. “But we think this is probably its greatest responsibility its had in certainly a long … time and maybe in its history over all.”

She added that Fenway Park is keenly aware of the community and will be a vaccination site as long as the Commonwealth needs it.

“We’ve always understood our role in the community,” she said. “We had voting at this very location. Where they’re getting shots, that’s where they were casting their ballots in November.”

The site opened Friday for a “soft launch” of the vaccinations from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, where around 150 people received vaccinations.

The historic ballpark’s “Gate A” redefined to be the entrance for priority groups to receive their Pfizer vaccine. LILY KEPNER/DFP STAFF

The site officially opens Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to Phase 1 priority groups and individuals aged 75 and older, around 500 of whom will be vaccinated each day.

Appointments must be made in advance, and the vaccinations will be administered at no cost. The registration link went live Thursday.

The site was made possible by multiple partners: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, CIC Health, the Boston Red Sox and contracted health care delivery coordinators.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center provided medical oversight, Cataldo Ambulance offered support preparation and vaccine administration, DMSE Sports participated in on-site vaccine operations as well as logistics management and PWN Health was used for remote customer support.

Rachel Wilson, chief operating officer at CIC Health, said in an interview the vaccination site will still be available if and when there is a baseball season, though the clinic’s operating hours may have to be adjusted or cancelled. However, she said Fenway will work with other local vaccination sites to make sure people can still receive their doses.

When it comes to possible logistical challenges of completing that goal, McKenna said “we’ll make it work.”

How it Works

Tucked between the kiosks behind the Grandstand 28 through 30 entrance are 10 individual vaccination stations currently set up.

A priority group member receives the Pfizer vaccine at Fenway Park. LILY KEPNER/DFP STAFF

Patients enter through Gate A, complete a COVID-19 health assessment questionnaire and are given a new surgical mask to change into or put over their face mask before entering. Then, they are guided through the facility by CIC Health professionals to the check-in tables and on through to the vaccination stations.

A “vaccine runner” brings the vaccine to the station, where it is administered to the individual. People are asked if they have a history of allergic reactions and are sent to the vaccination observation area after. They must wait 30 minutes before leaving if they have a history of allergic reactions and 15 if they do not.

The immunization process is designed to take less than an hour.

When patients make their appointment online, they will be sent text reminders with additional information as well as an email verification. Chris Kaufmann, vaccine coordinator for CIC Health, said in an interview the CIC team aimed to make the process efficient.

“That was really really important for us … to basically think through what would go through a person’s mind if he actually steps in, and what questions did you have,” Kaufman said.

By Feb. 8, CIC Health is looking to vaccinate 1,250 people daily at the ballpark. They also hope to expand their operating hours and begin vaccinations on weekends as well.

The vaccination clinic will stay open even if it is snowing, but plans to notify individuals to cancel their appointments and assist them with rescheduling if weather conditions are too dangerous.

Kaufmann said an aspect of his job is monitoring the shot from its arrival to its distribution.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be kept at negative 80 degrees Celsius, he said, but must be thawed before administering.

“It comes from these super, ultra low temperature freezers that’s minus 80 degrees Celsius,” he said. “From there, we transfer it into a pharmaceutical-grade fridge.”

In the fridge, the vial then thaws overnight and is then transferred to four to eight CIC Health vaccine preparers who draw up the vaccine.

“The next day … it goes to the vaccine preparers that sit at Sam Adams Bar, “ he said, “which is quite funny. They’re preparing your shots at the bar.”

Though the vial is meant for five doses, Kaufmann said they “reliably” get six doses out of it.

His job throughout the vaccination process, he said, is to maintain inventory control and temperature control.

Featured Left to Right: Edward Ullman, Chris Kaufmann, Rachel Wilson, Sarah McKenna and Rodrigo Martinez after the press conference LILY KEPNER/DFP STAFF

“That’s super important because we don’t want to waste any vaccines,” he said, adding that CIC Health is hiring more people like him as they expand their sites.

He said though this is a “logistical challenge,” but with the right people, it’s not hard to make possible.

Kauffman said he remembers first walking into Fenway Park as a graduate student with his father, and how seeing it transform into a vaccination site is, in a word, “epic.”

“[It’s] a Boston icon,” Kauffman said, “and to make it happen here, it feels really epic.”

Kauffman said people should trust the vaccine.

“Trust the experts, the vaccine is safe, the vaccine is very, very efficacious,” he said, “and we will take care of you.”

Historic place, historic moment

Boston Red Sox mascot “Wally the Green Monster” poses with his vaccine pin

Rodrigo Martinez, CIC Health’s chief marketing and experience officer, said they built in a photo opportunity so people could reflect on the historic nature of the moment, in a place close to so many Bostonians.

“We have a space, a moment for them to reflect and share through social media,” Martinez said at the press conference. “That’s the only way we’re going to get the word out to everybody the importance of getting vaccinated, which helps all of us get back to our lives.”

Lisa Ivey, a personal care attendant, received her vaccination at the park Friday.

“I feel privileged because I know, unfortunately, there are still a lot of people waiting for the opportunity,” Ivey said during the conference. “I’m ecstatic.”

Ivey added she is glad PCAs could be prioritized in vaccine distribution because they work directly with patients.

“Working in the community with those that are most vulnerable,” Ivey said, “I think it’s very imperative and important that on a federal and a state level that we are acknowledged, we are respected and that we are also are protected.”

In a press conference, Ivey described the process as “very easy.” She said everyone should be responsible and get vaccinated.

“At first I was a little petrified, I’ll be honest,” Ivey said. “But when I see Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden … be responsible and be leaders from the front, it made it comfortable for us to be leaders within our family.”

Linda Edge, a Quincy resident who is also a PCA, received her vaccination Friday as well. Now that she has been vaccinated, Edge said she feels more comfortable with seeing her mother.

“Knowing that I’m safe, knowing that she’s going to be safe being around me, I’m excited,” Edge said.

As a PCA worker, Ivey said she offers direct care to citizens. She signed up for the vaccine at the request of her union rep, she said, and feels lucky to have gotten it.

She said she encourages others to do the same.

“It just felt like a little pinch,” Ivey said. “To save my life, I’ll take a shot.”


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