Baker: Feds should match vaccine distribution to demand
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he’s pressing federal officials to reconsider how they distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to take into consideration the relative demand for the vaccine in individual states.
The distribution of vaccine shots is currently based on population.
But there is stronger demand for the vaccine in some states than in others, Baker said, with some areas essentially telling federal officials not to send them more shots because they haven’t been able to use the vaccine they have.
“If you have folks who aren’t taking down the allocation that is being made available to them, we here in Massachusetts would love to have that because we have people who want to be vaccinated and we have an infrastructure that could probably do two times, as many as three times, the doses a day as we do now,” Baker said at an afternoon press conference.
Federal officials have acknowledged the disparity in demand but haven’t figured out the best way to respond, Baker said. The Republican said he planned to talk to members of the state’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation to see if they can also press for a change.
Recently published data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Massachusetts has the lowest vaccine hesitancy rate in the nation with all counties demonstrating hesitancy rates well below 10 percent, Baker said.
“People in Massachusetts are eager to get vaccinated,” he said. “This enthusiasm is a critical part of making Massachusetts the leading state among all big states in getting our residents vaccinated.”
During the press conference, Baker also said that the state is continuing to ramp up vaccination efforts in underserved communities, including the release of new TV ads as part of its $5 million, multilingual “Trust the Facts, Get the Vax” public awareness campaign.
He also urged residents to continue getting tested for the coronavirus.
“We are not done with COVID,” he said.
Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst are joining a growing list of colleges that will require student to get a coronavirus vaccine before returning to campus in the fall.
Lee Pelton, president of Emerson, said in a letter to students Wednesday that school officials also expect staff and faculty will be vaccinated before they return to the Boston campus. He also acknowledged that medical and religious exemptions would be made on an individual basis.
Both schools said they plan to largely return to pre-pandemic, on-campus operations.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in an announcement Thursday most courses will be taught face-to-face and dorms will be open. He also said faculty and staff will be strongly encouraged, but not required to get vaccinated.
Northeastern University and Boston University, both in Boston, have also said they’ll require students to be vaccinated.
A Boston suburb is holding fast to strict limits on businesses to limit the spread of COVID-19, even as the state and other communities start to open up more widely.
The city of Somerville continues to limit capacity to 25% at stores, offices, salons, and gyms whereas the state has been allowing for 50% capacity as it’s in the fourth and final phase of its economic reopening plan.
But Somerville official said in mid-March that third phase restrictions will remain in place in the city across the river from Boston, at least for the foreseeable future, The Boston Globe reports.
Restaurants and other businesses have complained about the rules but Mayor Joe Curtatone says city officials are waiting for a more substantive drop in COVID-19 cases locally.
He also says the city has done more to help the local restaurant industry weather the pandemic than many other communities.
The Boston Pops will be going entirely virtual for its spring program.
The season will feature four new concerts alongside two performances from the archives of the pop orchestra, which is an offshoot of the venerable Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The organization said Thursday that the concerts will be released on its website at noon every Thursday from May 6 through June 10 and be available for 30 days with payment.
Among the performances will be a special Mother’s Day program next month spotlighting female composers like Carole King and Joan Tower.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 1,400 Thursday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 17.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,168 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 636,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 650 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 160 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 61. There were an estimated 31,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
Nearly 5.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 3.2 million first doses and nearly 2 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
Nearly 2.2 million people have been fully immunized.
Nearly 84% of vaccine doses shipped to Massachusetts have been reported as administered to those seeking shots.