Health Department Plans Vaccination Clinics 


State Representative Mindy Domb receives her second COVID booster from Maura Keene at a vaccine clinic at the Bangs Center. Photo: Diane Amsterdam

Report on the Meeting of the Amherst Board of Health (BOH), October 12, 2023

The meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded.

Timothy Randhir (acting chair), Maureen Millea, Premila Nair, Risha Hess, Lauren Mills

Staff: Kiko Malin, Heath Director

One member of the public attended.

Public Hearing for Body Art Regulations
The board scheduled a public hearing on proposed body art regulations to be held on Zoom on November 9, at 5:30 PM, before the November Board of Health meeting. The link for this hearing will be available on the town calendar/website at least 48 hours before the meeting.

Toxic Chemical Regulations
The board will create a resource page for the public to help inform them about compliance with the town’s toxic chemical regulations.

Lauren Mills reported that the Amherst Conservation Commission recently discussed use of pesticides in community gardens and on town land and she thought that regulation of such usage should be considered by the BOH and under the board’s toxic chemical regulations.  

Tim Rhandir noted that the board has not talked much about garden use of pesticides but that perhaps they should and that information about such use could be added to the public resource page.  He suggested that this could begin with a specific review of instructions given to users of the community gardens on what they can and can’t use.

Maureen Millea concurred suggesting that the board check with the Town Manager to see whose purview this is. She said that in speaking with other government entities such as the Department of Public Works and Office of Procurement, they have to follow rules regarding toxic chemicals that have been promulgated by the state and federal governments. It is not clear that the BOH has anything to add to that.  She said the average resident probably isn’t aware of guidelines about pesticide use and could use information about that. 

Chair Succession
Millea offered to cover as interim chair until June when her term on the board will end. She thought that a co-chair (a possibility raised previously by Lauren Mills) would make things more complicated and make compliance with Open Meeting Law (OML) more difficult. Rhandir and Hess agreed with Hess noting that during her service on the town’s Affordable Housing Trust, co-chairs created OML complications.

Mills insisted that the board needed a co-chair and that at the very least, she would like the board to have a backup chair for instances when the chair is not available. She thought that there also needed to be a greater diversity of voices represented in the board’s work and argued for opening up the BOH to greater and broader participation. She also said that she would prefer to see the group reach decisions by consensus instead of by majority vote as was the practice last year.  She wanted to know if perhaps the number of positions on the board could be expanded so that students could participate. She said that the range of topics that come before the board does not represent the full range of public health interests in the community.

Premila Nair suggested electing  a vice chair as an alternative, as is done on many town committees, but also noted that every member of the board has input into the board’s work.

Malin pointed out that the board will have two vacancies in June (Millea and Randhir) and that would be an opportunity to reach out to the UMass School of Public Health and fill one of those positions with a student. She also suggested that there are other ways to get public health students involved with the work of the board, including perhaps establishing a public health student advisory board. And she said she thought (and members of the committee agreed) that it is not within the purview of the board to expand its membership.  She said that she would check with Assistant Town Manger Dave Ziomek on possibilities for changing the composition of the board. 

Mills moved that the BOH adopt a leadership structure of a chair and vice chair and this was approved unanimously (5-0).

Rhandir nominated Millea to serve as chair and this was approved unanimously (5-0).

Nair nominated Randhir to serve as vice-chair and this was approved  4-0-1 (with Rhandir abstaining).

Director’s Update
COVID Vaccine
The new COVID vaccine is now widely available commercially (e.g. at Stop and Shop, CVS, and Walgreens) so the town has not been able to acquire a big stock of vaccine. But the Health Department is working with Northampton’s Health and Human Services Department and Loren Davine, the Hampshire County MRC Coordinator, to organize three vaccine clinics that are designed primarily to serve Amherst residents who are uninsured or under-insured. The clinics are as follows:

  • The Clark House clinic is on October 26, from 1-2:30 p.m. and it is primarily for its residents
  • The Craigs Doors clinic is on November 2, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church. While this is also primarily for Craig’s Doors guests, they won’t turn anyone away.
  • The Senior Center clinic is on November 7, from 9-12:30 PM and will be held at the Bangs Center and is the one that’s open to the public.

All these clinics will be providing both the updated COVID shot and flu vaccine. People interested in these clinics are asked to register either online through this link: or over the phone by calling this number: 413-587-1314. This team is holding other clinics in the area which can be found on this link:

This information is not yet posted on the Health Department web site but will be added soon.

Malin noted that full insurance is now required to cover flu and COVID vaccines. The health department is trying to prioritize accommodating people who don’t have insurance or who are under-insured.  The vaccine that the health department currently has in stock is mandated for use with people who do not have insurance.

COVID Tests 
The health department has a small stock of COVID tests for those who can’t afford them. 1800 additional test kits are on order.

West Nile Virus
The town is now part of the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District which does a lot of monitoring of mosquito-borne diseases.  Last week, the state informed the town of a single mosquito found in Amherst that tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). The risk of contracting WNV in Amherst remains low and the health department does not anticipate an increased risk of infection.  And with evening average temperatures now consistently below 50 degrees, the chances of mosquito encounters has dropped precipitously. Nonetheless, it was a bad mosquito year and so added caution (long sleeves, insect repellent) is advised until the first frost occurs. 

COVID Waste Water Report
There was a spike in the presence of SARS CoV-2 in Amherst’s wastewater in September but those numbers are coming down.  Most recent reports have not yet been posted to the town’s COVID page.

Community Health Assessment
Mills asked Malin how we know what the public health needs are in Amherst. Malin referred her to the town’s Community Health Assessment which was two years in the making and released in June of 2023. A comprehensive summary of the assessment as well as a copy of the complete report can be found here.

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