Curative at center of vaccine snafus in Danvers, Springfield

Lawmakers criticize firm’s management of mass vaccination sites

OVER 20 LEGISLATORS  are questioning Gov. Charlie Baker over the usage of Curative Inc, to manage three mass vaccination sites, citing the company’s short existence and recent snags.

“This corporation claims to be a leader in on-demand public health service programs … [that] partners with communities to strengthen public health services with turn-key programs, easy-to-access experiences, and scalable infrastructure,” said the reps in a letter to Baker. But they went on to say they’re “concerned” the company has a “very limited track record of humanely and equitably providing such complicated logistical public health services required for a large-scale vaccination program.”

 Biotech startup Curative was founded by Fred Turner, Dr. Isaac Turner (no relation), and Vlad Slepnev in January 2020 with the original intention of creating a test for sepsis. On its website, the company said that its focus shifted to a “rapidly scalable COVID-19 testing process to help flatten the curve and save lives” as the pandemic surged. The goal: providing self-administered COVID-19 tests nationwide. 

Fast forward a year, and the company has over 1,000 employees, and provides over a million coronavirus tests per week. The money is big. Los Angeles paid Curative almost $65 million for tests. The company has been able to acquire contracts with the Department of Defense, and used Cares Act funding for its development.

 Media outlets have profiled the rise of 25-year-old Fred Turner, the engineer chief executive officer of the endeavor, and his business acumen. Over the past months, the company expanded to becoming a go-to facilitator of mass vaccination sites in several states, including Florida, Delaware, Massachusetts, and California, using scheduling software and its own site directors and staff.

 In the Bay State, it operates three mass vaccination sites in Danvers, soon in Dartmouth, and at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, where things got hairy on Monday. Hundreds of seniors 75 and over, along with their families, waited hours in snowy, below-freezing conditions to receive their first doses of the vaccine. Some complained about a lack of social distancing in the line and lack of management outside.

 In a statement to 22News Tuesday, Curative said it had adjusted the flow of the line to get patients inside the building faster and revamped the vaccination intake process to avoid waits in the cold.

 “As our on-site team works to implement line controls for the safety of our patients, we ask all patients arriving early to remain in their cars until 15 minutes prior to their appointment. This will help assist us in enforcing social distancing on-site,” wrote the company.

 Seniors will be allowed to wait inside the Eastfield Mall site, and the National Guard and additional staff are on hand to assist. The National Guard is also on hand in Danvers.

 Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also said a review will be conducted into Curative’s systems for contacting and updating senior citizens on their appointments.

 On Wednesday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, two lines formed, one for people who had appointments that day and another for those who had appointments in the future. That’s when, according to Lucie Consentino, 84, who was there for an appointment, a Curative worker told those waiting that extra doses were available and they could call family and friends to come and get vaccinated if they arrived by 4 p.m., regardless of their age. 

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Freelance reporter, Formerly worked for CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Crowds formed with many being turned away. It’s unclear how many people with appointments were vaccinated. Diane Melchionno told NBC10Boston her husband was one of them. The station got a long explanation from Curtative about extra doses being available that day.

 “We don’t believe there should be a cattle call at the end of the day. People need to manage their dosing and vaccine and we expect all the sites to do that moving forward,” said Baker when asked about the situation on Thursday. “if you don’t have a scheduled appointment, there will not be a vaccine for you.”

 He defended Curative’s Springfield situation, saying that people there were arriving too early for appointments, and that delays were because of confusion among the public, not the company’s staff.