Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
His Excellency Charles Baker
Governor of the Commonwealth
State House, Boston
Dear Governor Baker,
On behalf of communities across the state, we want to start by expressing our deep appreciation for your exemplary leadership over the past year as the Commonwealth has faced an unprecedented challenge in the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to especially thank you and Lieutenant Governor Polito for your administration’s consistent engagement with local government on the countless issues that we have had to face together to mitigate the impacts of the virus. Though state and local leaders may not agree on every decision that has been made, we firmly believe that the level of mutual support and partnership between state and local government here in Massachusetts has been a national model of success in fighting the virus.
As the vaccination campaign continues and the supply from the federal government increases, we request that your administration consider restoring a stronger vaccine distribution role for those local public health departments with the capacity and desire to serve. We have two specific requests related to this.
First, we are asking that you consider empowering local health and fire departments to vaccinate teachers, public works employees and other essential workers in our communities once they become eligible to receive the vaccine. No city or town would contest that there exist certain economies of scale at mass vaccination sites that cities and towns cannot achieve, nor are we suggesting local clinics can take the place of these mass vaccination sites, particularly once we reach Phase 3. Rather, we believe that allowing municipalities to continue to request modest doses through the conclusion of Phase 2 would allow local officials to reach targeted populations of vulnerable communities and essential personnel on the front lines of the pandemic, especially when these individuals are living or working in the community.
Second, as the supply of doses increases, we ask that that you consider allowing local governments the ability to vaccinate other segments of the population as they become eligible. As the vaccination process continues, those who are vaccine hesitant will grow as a percentage of the remaining eligible population. Local governments are well equipped to serve as connectors to residents who may be hesitant, unwilling or unable to travel to the mass vaccinations sites established by the state. Cities and towns want to be partners with the state as we race toward achieving herd immunity, and we are confident that we can be strong contributors in this effort given our existing public health infrastructure and perhaps even more importantly, our relationships with our residents.
We respectfully ask that you consider these requests as the vaccination process progresses. At the same time the MMA and local officials make a commitment to you. Communities stand ready to execute the roles that you have identified in your February 17 announcement. Those residing in senior housing, homebound seniors and hard-to-reach individuals will be vaccinated by local health departments and/or through locally driven partnerships, and councils on aging will continue to work to connect residents with appointments at vaccination sites across the Commonwealth. Cities and towns are partners with you in this unprecedented challenge. We’re all on the same team, fighting a common enemy. We all want to vaccinate the residents of Massachusetts in the most efficient, equitable and effective manner possible, leaving no person behind.
Local public health departments and local public health professionals have spent decades planning, training and preparing for emergency distribution of vaccines. This is a well-deserved point of pride for local public health professionals, and though no one ever wanted this pandemic to occur, its existence provided an opportunity for local public health departments to put this investment in planning and training to good use as part of the current vaccine distribution plan.
Part of the frustration that cities and towns are feeling is that they have worked so hard to engage and ramp up over the past several months, with an expectation that their role would be central to the vaccine distribution process. Hindsight is always easier, but if the state’s decision to construct the vaccine delivery around mass sites for maximum efficiency had been announced in December, the frustration would have been replaced with conversation and planning around how municipalities could complement and fit within this system. We are committed to working with you to close any future communication gaps, so that communities can move together with you as partners.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. We look forward to continued engagement and partnership with you and your team in the weeks and months ahead.
Town Manager, Town of Arlington
Vice President, MMA
Mayor, City of Newton
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO, MMA
cc: The Honorable Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth
Secretary Marylou Sudders, Executive Office of Health and Human Services