SALISBURY — The Lower Merrimack Valley could reach the coveted herd immunity for COVID-19 by mid-June, according to health officials.
Salisbury has joined Newburyport, Amesbury, West Newbury, Newbury, Rowley, Georgetown, Merrimac and Groveland to form the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative, which has been hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Amesbury High School since late February.
Health Director Jack Morris told selectmen at their meeting Monday that the collaborative has vaccinated roughly 20,000 people so far.
About 80,000 people live in the collaborative’s territory and by mid-June, he expects 56,000 of those people (70%) will have received the vaccine.
“We are getting very close to herd immunity, hopefully by June 19, which is going to be our last scheduled clinic,” Morris said.
The City of Amesbury has taken the lead in vaccine distribution. Communications Director Caitlin Thayer confirmed the tentative mid-June goal on Wednesday.
“June 19 is the last scheduled clinic that we have and that is what we are working with now,” Thayer said. “We have found surprisingly that, since eligibility opened up to everybody, the clinics have been filling up slower and slower.”
Amesbury has seen 1,057 positive cases of COVID-19 with 45 deaths as of April 22, according to state data. Salisbury has seen 616 cases and 15 deaths.
Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday told The Daily News that of April 22, 63% of her city’s residents have been vaccinated with at least one shot and 44% are fully vaccinated.
Morris also told Salisbury selectmen Monday that the state has been giving the collaborative roughly 2,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines each week.
“They have not provided enough doses to run the clinic five days a week, at 750 doses a day,” he said. “They have allowed us to operate the clinic on the weekends and distribute all of our vaccines.”
Morris added that he and his department have been “inundated” with COVID-19 ever since March 2020.
“We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to wear masks pretty soon, and (will) have herd immunity. Those are the goals that everyone is shooting for.”
Selectman Ronalee Ray-Parrott thanked Morris and his department for all of their hard work over the past year.
“I just want to say how well run these (collaborative) vaccination sites are,” Ray-Parrott said. “It is just so impressive. I have volunteered a couple of times and have been talking to people who have been there. I haven’t heard a single, solitary complaint with just how well that it is run. There are plenty of complaints coming from other places. So, you guys have done an amazing job and I know that was no small task.”
Selectman Freeman Condon echoed Ray-Parrott’s comments.
“My wife has volunteered in Amesbury and every time that she comes home, she says that the overwhelming comments are how well-organized it is, how efficient it has been, there have been zero complaints,” Condon said.
Ray-Parrott also mentioned she has heard there are many people who receive only the first dose of either a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine and do not return for their second dose.
“I think they might be reading reports about adverse effects or things like that and they get scared or they might just forget,” Morris said. “Some of those people may also be elderly and forgot about that second appointment.”
Morris stressed that the vaccination effort has been a true team effort.
“The police, the fire, the (Council on Aging), the town manager, everybody, and I can’t name them all, have been fantastic,” Morris said. “You pick up that phone and they are right there to help.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.