If you’re among the 20 percent of Massachusetts residents who haven’t already hopped on board the COVID-19 vaccination train, now is your chance.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced Friday that one of its private partners in the vaccine rollout, CIC Health, is taking over an MBTA commuter rail train next week and making stops in communities with lagging vaccination rates to offer walk-up shots.
Dubbed the “Vax Express,” the train will make stops at stations in Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence, Fitchburg, as well as in Boston at Mattapan’s Blue Hill Avenue Station, North Station, and South Station (view the schedule online or below). No appointments are required, though people can book a time slot in advance on CIC’s website.
The Vax Express will offer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for those ages 18 and up, as well as the two-dose Pfizer vaccine for anyone over 12 (the train will make another swing through the same stations three weeks later, July 7 to 11, for second-dose appointments, with specific times to be announced).
Of course, CIC Health isn’t completely commandeering the train; Keolis, the company that operates the MBTA’s commuter rail, will still be providing conductors and train crews to take the train from stop to stop.
While the COVID-19 vaccine has for weeks been widely available at pharmacies and other local providers across Massachusetts on a walk-up basis, the hope of the new effort appears to be to draw still-unvaccinated residents to the novelty of getting their shots on board one of the MBTA’s purple-striped commuter rail trains.
John Kileen, the acting CEO of Keolis, contended that the station-based vaccination sites “allow for a fun community-focused event,” in addition to being conveniently located.
As an added bonus, according to CIC Health, the rolling vaccination sites will also be offering free food and $25 grocery store gift cards.
After standing up vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park, and later offering free Dunkin’ iced coffees and Museum of Science tickets to people who got vaccinated, the locomotive-based effort is also the latest “creative” initiative led by CIC Health.
“Creative outreach and the vaccination experience have been a focus for CIC Health since launching Gillette Stadium in January, and the Vax Express is an extension of that focus,” Rodrigo Martinez, chief marketing and experience officer for the Cambridge-based startup, said in a statement.
Baker noted that the state remains on track to surpass its goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents later this month. As of Friday, more than 4.5 million people in Massachusetts had gotten at least one shot of one of the three approved vaccines, accounting for 80 percent of adults and 68 percent of the overall population. More than 3.9 million, or roughly 69 percent of adults, are fully vaccinated.
In addition to the new vaccine train, officials have been pushing resources into communities that were hardest hit by the pandemic, with pop-up clinics and door-to-door campaigns, to entice hesitant residents to get vaccinated.
But next week, keep an eye out for the train.
Here’s the full schedule of stops next week:
June 16: Mattapan and Boston
Blue Hill Ave. Station on the Fairmount line, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
South Station, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
June 17: Worcester
Worcester’s Union Station on the Worcester line, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
June 18: Lowell and Boston
Lowell Station on the Lowell line, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
North Station, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
June 19: Lawrence
Lawrence Station on the Haverhill line, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
June 20: Fitchburg
Fitchburg Station on the Fitchburg line, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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