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With Cambridge’s Vaccine Supply Still Severely Limited, Mayor Acknowledges ‘Frustrations’ With Shortage

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In an interview with The Crimson Friday, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui acknowledged residents’ and city leaders’ “frustration” over the limited supply of Covid-19 vaccines, which has hampered city distribution efforts.

“Looking back on how things could be better or what should have been done to begin with, it would be to have more supply for the local health departments,” Siddiqui said.

The state initially capped Cambridge at just 100 vaccine doses per week, before increasing it to 400 in February.

Last week, the state entered the fourth stage of its “Phase Two” Covid-19 vaccination program, widening eligibility to individuals aged 60 and older along with some essential workers, including those in the sanitation, grocery, utility, and transit sectors.

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As of Friday, the city had administered 4,497 doses of either the Moderna or the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to eligible Cambridge residents, according to a city dashboard.

Siddiqui said the supply issues were hindering more grassroots efforts in the city’s vaccination campaign.

“I wish we were doing more of this in the community, right?” she said. “Why can’t we be going into the Rindge Towers in North Cambridge and going door to door? It’s all because of supply.”

The Rindge Towers are an affordable housing development where Siddiqui herself grew up.

Despite the hindrance caused by the state’s limited supply of doses, Siddiqui praised the work of the Cambridge Pandemic Collaborative — a city-led group charged with organizing pandemic response — in leading vaccination efforts.

The city will commence the last stage of “Phase Two” on April 5, which will expand vaccination eligibility to include individuals age 55 and older as well as those with one underlying medical condition.

Individuals age 16 and older in Massachusetts will be eligible to receive the vaccine after April 19 when “Phase Three” of the state’s vaccination effort begins.

Siddiqui also acknowledged other impediments to the vaccine distribution efforts. Specifically, she cited the challenges many Cambridge seniors faced when trying to navigate the appointment booking process.

“These are people in their 70s, people in their 80s, who the system has failed,” she said.

In recent weeks, the city also ramped up its homebound vaccination program, which is designed to vaccinate individuals who are bedbound, have cognitive or behavioral issues, or mobility issues. The Cambridge Public Health Department is leading the initiative in partnership with the Cambridge Housing Authority and Cambridge Council on Aging.

Siddiqui said she believes residents are satisfied with the program and the city’s system is working as it should.

“We’ve generally heard a lot of positive feedback on our firefighters and our teams who are involved as well as the Cambridge Pandemic Collaborative and their work that they’re doing,” Siddiqui said.

Siddiqui, who serves as the Chair of the Cambridge School Committee, also discussed the recent “COVID Conversations On Safety and Health Protocols” she has hosted with the Cambridge Public Health Department, during which parents can ask questions about Covid-19 protocols in schools. Some teachers and parents had criticized the school district for its handling of remote learning in the fall.

Cambridge Public Schools expanded in-person learning on March 1 and will do so again in April. Starting April 5, elementary schools will offer full-time in-person learning five days a week, with upper schools following suit on April 28.

“I think it’s good timing as more and more people are going back into the school,” she said. “Parents have concerns about distancing and what classrooms will look like and all these things.”

—Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at ryan.kim@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer David R. Shaw can be reached at david.shaw@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidrwshaw.

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