Baker: Vaccine Doses Arriving in Expected Numbers

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Photo: State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

By Katie Lannan, State House News Service

The Baker administration has been anticipating that Massachusetts would receive about 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2020, a projection that Gov. Charlie Baker said on the second-to-last day of the year still holds, despite a “bumpy” rollout process.

“This is the largest rollout of a vaccination program in U.S. history, and it can’t happen fast enough,” Baker said Wednesday. “That said, we were expecting to get about 300,000 doses by the end of the calendar year, and we’re going to get about 300,000 doses by the end of the calendar year. I said when this whole thing was first being discussed about three or four weeks ago that I expected the rollout would be bumpy, and it’s certainly lived up to my expectations with respect to that.”

So far, Baker said, Massachusetts has received approximately 86,000 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 146,000 of the Moderna vaccine, with an additional 68,000 first doses allocated to a long-term care vaccination program in partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

Baker’s comments come the day after President-elect Joe Biden warned that the toughest time of the pandemic might yet be ahead, encouraging Americans to “steel our spines” and projecting a “soaring death toll” in February arising from viral spread over the holidays.

Biden said he would “spare no effort to make sure people are getting vaccinated,” with a goal of ensuring that 100 million shots have been administered by the end of his first 100 days in office, a “massive” public education campaign and plans to use the Defense Production Act to speed up manufacturing of needed supplies.

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“A few weeks ago the Trump Administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December,” Biden said. “With only a few days left in December, we have only vaccinated a few million so far. At the pace the vaccination program is moving now, it would take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”

Baker said he has spoken to Moderna and Pfizer officials who have told him “they believe they will be able to deliver on their production schedules and their production requirements.”

“I’m not sure how long it will take, but that flywheel will really start to spin, and then our big challenge is going to be making sure that we have the capacity in the places and spaces we need it in Massachusetts to actually deliver the last mile, which is the actual shot in the arm, twice, to the people who are eligible for the vaccine,” he said.

The distribution plan Baker announced on Dec. 9 breaks the vaccination campaign into three phases, with priority given to different demographic groups within the first two phases. The third phase, when the shots will become available to the general public, is slated for April to June.

The first phase, now underway and expected to run through February, began earlier this month with health care workers involved in pandemic response and has since expanded to long-term care facilities.

Long-term care vaccination began Monday, through a partnership with the federal government and pharmacies. Baker said there will be more than 50 long-term care vaccine clinics this week with an estimated 20,000 individuals getting their first dose in that time period.

Additional clinics will “continue to be launched on a rolling basis to distribute about 219,000 doses of the vaccine to all long-term care facilities over the next month,” Baker said.

After long-term care, police, fire and emergency medical services are next on the list, followed by, in order, congregate-care settings including shelters and jails, home-based health care workers, and health care workers “doing non-COVID-facing care.”

Baker said his administration plans to provide more information next week about vaccinating first responders, and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said a meeting is set for Thursday with first responders and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to discuss draft plans “and obviously make modifications in response to feedback.”

Firefighters on Tuesday criticized the approach so far to first-responder vaccination, saying local boards of health “are not structurally prepared” to conduct the vaccinations and that the state “still has not provided any dates, times, or vaccination locations.”

“Most of our members are EMT’s and Paramedics, which would allow us to give the vaccines to each other,” the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts wrote in a Twitter thread. “All we are missing is a viable plan by the State.”

Baker said Thursday’s conversation will address “the most appropriate way to deal with the fact” that cities and towns “vary tremendously” in their approach to emergency services, including some that share departments among communities and others with volunteer services.

“This is a great example of where a one-size-fits-all is not the right answer,” he said.

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