Editorial: Florian Hall opens as vaccination site

(Left to right) Staff Sargent Matt Gleason, National Guard, also a member for the Boston Fire Department and Dorchester resident); State Rep. Dan Hunt; Lt. Joe Puliafico, National Guard; Mary Jo Brogna, Director of Nursing, Harbor Health; Lt. John Soarse, Director of Boston Firefighter Credit Union and President of Local 718; and Chuck Jones, CEO & President, Harbor Health. Photo courtesy Harbor Health

Florian Hall, the firefighter’s union headquarters on Hallet Street, is familiar to generations of Dorchester people as a gathering place for family functions and neighborhood benefit “times.” This week, the Neponset landmark has been converted into a Covid-19 vaccination site, the first of its kind in this section of the neighborhood. It was stood-up this week under the guidance of the medical professionals from Harbor Health, which operates the nearby Neponset Daniel Driscoll Community Health Center, one of Dorchester’s critically important neighborhood health centers.

The clinic is getting some logistical and staffing support from members of the National Guard’s 972nd Military Police Company in Reading and the State’s Medical Unit from Hanscom Air Base in Bedford. The Boston Firefighters Union Local 718, which owns Florian Hall, made it possible with some help from Rep. Daniel Hunt, who represents the neighborhood in the state Legislature.

Rep. Hunt said that the president of Local 718 — Lt. John Soares— said “yes” immediately when he called to ask if the Florian could be used as a vaccination site.

“It’s great to have a partner in the firefighter’s union,” said Hunt. “Everybody is anxious to get the vaccine and to have it be located so close to home is key. People don’t want to have to go to Foxborough or Fenway.”

Chuck Jones, president and CEO at Harbor Health, said that making sure that “everyone who is eligible can get the vaccine is our top priority at Harbor Health right now.”

“We are grateful for the support from the Massachusetts National Guard, Florian Hall, and the Boston Firefighters Union,” said Jones. “This kind of collaboration is critical to getting shots into arms and helping all members of our community stay healthy and safe.”

For now, the Florian clinic is by appointment only and open to eligible Harbor patients and community members Monday to Friday.  The Harbor Health effort at Florian is the latest example of Dorchester’s network of community health centers kicking in at what we might look back at as an inflection point in the vaccination campaign. “The [Baker] administration is doing a complete shift to go from the larger sites to these somewhat smaller sites with local partners,” said Rep. Hunt, who has a keen understanding of the importance of the health center system. To learn more about how to make an appointment, visit Harbor’s website at HHSI.US/CovidVaccine.

-Bill Forry

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