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Mass vaccination site opens at Roxbury Community College

CIC Health officially began its management of a third mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Massachusetts at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College Saturday.

reggie lewis track and field center at roxbury community college
Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. CIC Health announced Feb. 24 the facility would serve as its third mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Massachusetts. COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The site operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will expand to 10-hour days in the coming weeks. CIC took over operations from the City, which had been managing the site since early February.

CIC’s operations opened with an initial dosage capacity of 800 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations per day, with plans to increase that number to 2,500 daily appointments in a month’s time, according to a Feb. 24 press release announcing the change in management.

“We could not be doing more important work right now, and these mass vaccination sites are an integral part of how we get back to schools, back to work, and ultimately how we get our community, our city, back,” Rodrigo Martinez, chief marketing and experience officer at CIC Health, wrote in an email statement.

Founded in August 2020, CIC Health operates two other mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and Fenway Park in Boston.

The Roxbury location is the first mass vaccination site in the Commonwealth to open in a region with a large population of people of color.

“With the Reggie Lewis Center located in the heart of a diverse, urban community,” Martinez wrote, “the Roxbury site’s expansion is a step forward in addressing the needs of those hardest hit by the pandemic.”

After groups such as the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition advocated for the City to open a vaccination site closer to BIPOC communities, the City proposed the location and the state agreed, said member Atyia Martin.

Martin said the City was forced to initially run the site due to issues with finding a contractor in time — adding that its opening was “a step in the right direction.”

CIC Health worked in tandem with organizations such as the Boston Public Health Commission to streamline logistics and scale capacity for vaccinations, according to the press release.

The company also contracted Mass General Brigham for medical oversight, Transformative Healthcare to prepare and administer vaccines, and DMSE Sports for on-site vaccination operations and logistics management, the press release stated.

Valerie Roberson, president of RCC, said she was happy to work with CIC to expand testing to people of color in the surrounding area.

“This is one of those times in society where we’re really called on to be our brother’s keeper and make sure that everybody is safe,” she said.

New vaccination appointments will be released each Thursday. Half of the appointments will be reserved for local resident registrations, Martinez wrote.

To build trust and prioritize vaccine equity, CIC Health is actively collaborating with more than two dozen community partners, according to the press release. Those partners include local churches and social service groups that work with elderly communities, Roberson added.

Martin said the Coalition worked with the City to ensure the process was equitable to local residents.

“We basically worked with them to not come into the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center site with a one-size fits all approach because of the range of diversity in the community,” Martin said. “We’re still definitely involved and will not be going anywhere.”

As a result of these partnerships and weekly town halls, CIC implemented a canvassing program that disseminated around 10,000 informational flyers, 10,000 door-hangers and 1,000 posters in Roxbury and surrounding neighborhoods, according to Martinez.

Printed materials and website content are offered in eight “community-identified languages”: Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese. 

Roberson said CIC has taken “extraordinary steps” to make sure those who register do not need to use the Massachusetts website and callbacks are in patients’ native languages.

“In some of the populations of color, there is a history where people haven’t always had access or there’s been some situations with a lack of trust,” Roberson said. “These communities really need to know that this is safe, and that the vaccine that they’re getting is the same vaccine that others are getting.”

On-site interpretation and phone support are available in 240 languages, and CIC implemented a door-to-door awareness campaign throughout Roxbury, Martinez wrote.

“Part of this is about re-establishing relationships, reimagining or redefining and centering on people who were just often not involved in that process,” Martin said, “and being respectful of their questions and giving good quality information, instead of finger wagging.”

Martin said some of the biggest challenges in extending vaccine rollout to communities of color boil down to trust — misinformation and a history of medical mistreatment, not ignorance, lead many to be wary of vaccines.

“Equity is about making sure that the processes and the resources actually have support built in to them so that people can actually take advantage of those opportunities,” Martin said. “That means boots on the ground, reaching out to community members who are working multiple jobs, who are juggling family … and really taking that extra effort.”


A previous version of this article misattributed Rodrigo Martinez’s statement to his spokesperson. The article has been changed to correct this error.

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