Supporting the efforts of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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May 26, 2021

Governor Baker holds press conference after touring East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s vaccination clinic at Oceanside Events in Revere.

As we turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a moment to reflect on some of the important work we’ve done over the past 15 months. At Greenough Brand Storytellers  we have had the honor of working alongside many clients who have played extraordinary roles in saving and improving lives during the pandemic.  

For example, when COVID-19 was first reported, it was Thermo Fisher Scientific who immediately launched a test to detect the virus, now available in 175 countries worldwide. Home-based medical care provider Prospero Health quickly invested in virtual technology to continue to care for vulnerable, chronically ill patients.  

EBNHC president and CEO Manny Lopes is interviewed on MSNBC in April 2020

And right here in our local community, I have been proud to support the work of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in helping hundreds of thousands of people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  It was a monumental effort and an important story worth telling.  

As the first surge raged through the northeast, Chelsea was featured in national headlines as one of the hardest hit communities per capita in the country. Like East Boston, Chelsea is a highly populated, dense city that is home to a large immigrant population, many of whom live in multi-family dwellings and who work in essential, front-line healthcare roles. EBNHC president and CEO Manny Lopes was interviewed on national broadcast news to discuss the health disparities the community faced and the stark inequities that the pandemic exposed.  

EBNHC launched the first drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Suffolk Downs and several other public testing sites in East Boston and surrounding communities. Throughout the summer, as tensions over racial justice escalated around the country and demonstrations were held in Boston, EBNHC worked with the City of Boston to stand up pop-up testing sites in COVID-19 hotspots. In total, to-date, EBNHC has processed more than 130,000 COVID-19 tests. The Boston Globe shared the perspective of the “swabbers.”  

Beyond healthcare, it became clear that the communities served by EBNHC were suffering from joblessness and food insecurity. EBNHC’s Community Resource and Wellness Center provided much needed services such as guidance on how to stay in one’s home under the State’s eviction moratorium and by providing food each week through a partnership with the Red Cross.  

EBNHC’s Dr. Jaime Gallegos was the first person in Massachusetts to receive the Moderna vaccine.

On December 21, 2020, Dr. Jaime Gallegos of EBNHC was the first person in Massachusetts to receive the Moderna vaccine, expressing “relief” after receiving the injection. He would later play a crucial role in educating the community about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines by hosting town halls and webinars with multiple government and community partners.  

The lessons that EBNHC learned through its robust COVID-19 testing efforts were then applied to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, prioritizing equity.  

In order to open vaccine clinics, EBNHC realized it needed the three “S’s:” Supply, Space and Staff. The state and federal government provided the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. EBNHC opened four brick-and-mortar vaccination clinics in easily accessible, familiar locations in the South End, Chelsea, East Boston and Revere. And at the sites in East Boston and Revere, the State provided members of the National Guard to administer the vaccines.  

Ramelfo Frometa received a COVID-19 vaccine at EBNHC’s clinic in Chelsea, MA

EBNHC also partnered with other organizations to meet the needs of the community. The staff worked with Last Mile Vaccine Delivery and Get Out the Vax (GOTVax) to create pop-up sites in neighborhoods where the vaccination rates were low. They also worked with major employers in food processing and with school districts such as Revere to vaccinate teachers and students. They collaborated on “Mobile Vax” with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Care. Partnerships with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Lyft also came together. EBNHC partnered with community organizations like La Colaborativa in Chelsea to engage and educate residents. COO and senior vice president Gregory Wilmot spearheaded the effort to bring these partners together and get the community vaccinated quickly and effectively.  

At Greenough, our goal was to share up-to-date, factual information that would resonate with the community. We made it a priority to reach out to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking media to share story angles that would reassure community-members of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We placed several stories in Univision, Telemundo, El Mundo, El Planeta and others. We had providers grace the front page of the Boston Globe four times over the past year. The leadership of Manny Lopes was recognized in a profile in the Boston Business Journal and he became one of Boston’s Most Influential People according to Boston Magazine. Additionally, EBNHC was featured on NBC National News for its efforts on vaccine equity.  

Senator Elizabeth Warren made her first public appearance since the pandemic started at EBNHC’s vaccination clinic in Chelsea, MA.

The work of EBNHC was recognized by our elected officials. Governor Baker toured three of the four brick-and-mortar sites, noting in his press conference that Manny was on a path towards, “world domination.” Senator Elizabeth Warren made her first public appearance since the pandemic started at the vaccination clinic in Chelsea. Senator Ed Markey, Representative Ayanna Pressley, Attorney General Maura Healey, District Attorney Rachael Rollins and many other local leaders visited the vaccination clinics. And even President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden sent 800 commemorative Easter Eggs to EBNHC to thank the staff for their tireless work.  

To date, EBNHC has administered 80,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Health Center has vaccinated more than 90% of its staff. By the end of April, the number of Latinx people vaccinated in East Boston was double that of Caucasians. But most impressive is that state data released in mid-May showed that the highest rate of Latinx vaccinations were in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere, a testament to EBNHC’s efforts.  

After serving these communities for 50 years, EBNHC was perfectly poised to do this work. In addition to the leadership of Manny Lopes and Gregory Wilmot, we must also recognize Steven Snyder and Brett Phillips for their unrelenting work to ensure that EBNHC’s message was getting out there. We are grateful to have been there in partnership to support the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s heroic efforts.  

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