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Mayor Sarno and HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris Announce “The Vax Force”

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris are pleased to announce that the City of Springfield has created the “Vax Force” – a COVID-19 Vaccine Education Committee.

The Springfield Information Vax Force Committee will provide credible COVID-19 resources to the citizens of Springfield using science, data, and information to guide the decision-making and explain the vaccination process, in layman’s terms.  The committee will explain how the vaccine is effective and the best practices to use after being vaccinated.  In addition, the Vax Force will help to debunk the myths about the vaccine and clarify rumors and misinformation.  The Vax Force will also help examine the distrust of vaccines within marginalized groups within the community.

The Vax Force will be comprised of 15 committee members offering expertise in the areas of health clinician data and information, research, education, faith, and diversity, equity and inclusion.  

Those serving on the Vax Force COVID-19 Vaccine Education Committee are:

  • Helen Caulton-Harris, HHS Commissioner and Committee Chairwoman
  • Tom Ashe, Mayor’s Chief of Staff, City of Springfield
  • Elsie Sanchez, Chair, Medical Reserve Corp.
  • Kathleen Szegda, Ph.D., Public Health Institute of Western MA
  • Jeffrey Scavron, M.D., Public Health Council; Brightwood Health Center
  • Andrew Balder, M.D., Mason Square Health Center / HSH
  • Maria Ligus, CEO, New North Citizens Council
  • Jose Claudio, COO, New North Citizens Council
  • Sarah McAdoo, M.D., UMass Population Health Capstone Director
  • Denise Jordan, Executive Director, Springfield Housing Authority
  • Jeanne Clancy, Public Health Council; Nursing Supervisory Springfield Public Schools
  • Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Baystate Health
  • Melissa Mattison, Pharm.D., Department of Pharmacy Practice, Western New England University
  • Wesley Days, Public Health Council; UMass Springfield
  • Tracy Chappell, Stone Soul Festival Coordinator

The Vax Force Committee will hold bi-weekly meetings via Zoom starting the week of January 11, 2021.  In addition, the committee will form and hold subcommittee meetings to help disseminate information and develop a diverse communications strategy in an effort to increase awareness of the COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of following all of the proper public health and safety guidelines within the community.  

HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris, as Chairwoman for the committee, will report to the Vax Force Executive Team, which includes Mayor Sarno who will serve as the Convener.  Those serving on the Executive Team are HHS Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, HHS Deputy Commissioner Soloe Dennis, HHS Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tony Pettaway, HHS Nursing Supervisor Anne Mistivar, and HHS Administrative Assistant Shirley Lebron. 

Mayor Sarno states, “As we continued our overall efforts to defeat this COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic – ‘and we will!’  Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and I have moved to create ‘The Vax Force’.  An assembled group of diverse, respected and trusted individuals within our Springfield community to reassure our Springfield residents by utilizing science, medical and public health information on the important role the vaccine will play to keep us all healthy.  This recovery and rebounding step is critical in not only defeating COVID-19, but just as important, vital in building concrete public, consumer and business confidence.  I am very grateful to Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and all committee members, who have agreed to serve and guide our efforts towards our residents.”

HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris stated, “I am grateful to the members of the Vax Force Committee who have agreed to serve.  The taskforce will examine the distrust of vaccines within segments of our population and to explain, in layman’s terms, how the vaccine is effective.” 

“I will lead by example and get the vaccine shot too,” said Mayor Sarno.  “Conspiracy theories never solved any medical challenge, vaccines do.”

The Vax Force Committee will provide a communications strategy to the community to help clarify and explain the vaccine.  This will be done in five phases. 

Phase 1

Explain the vaccination process

  • How the vaccine is effective
  • Best practices after being vaccinated
    • Continue to wear masks
    • Continue social distancing
    • Continue to wash hands frequently

Phase 2

Debunk Myths

  • Examine widespread misinformation about vaccines
  • Explain foundation of misinformation and inaccuracies using science
  • Examine distrust of vaccines within marginalized groups

Phase 3

Develop Marketing Assets

  • Public Service Announcements
  • Community Infographics
  • Promotional items
  • Social Media

Phase 4

Disseminate Information

  • Essential Workers
  • Age Groups
  • Racial and ethnic groups
  • Faith bases groups
  • Community based organizations
  • Mainstream media
  • Social media

Phase 5

Solicit Community Feedback and Response

  • Social media engagement
  • Meeting with neighborhood councils
  • Community hotline
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Page last updated:  Thursday, September 2, 2021 10:30 am