Senator Cindy Friedman has been deeply involved in the state’s planning for vaccination as a member of the State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group. She sent the helpful message below to her constituents.
In recent weeks, I have heard from so many constituents inquiring about the status of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the Commonwealth. I appreciate you reaching out on this issue, and I understand that many people are anxious, confused, or frustrated with the vaccine rollout. As a member of the State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, I can provide some context about the vaccine distribution plan. I also want to share some of the latest data about who has been vaccinated to try to shed some light on where we are in the process.
|First, some context:
In October of last year, a COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group was formed by the state to advance the Commonwealth’s efforts to prepare to distribute a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. I was appointed to this Advisory Group, which is comprised of medical professionals, public health experts, community leaders, infectious disease specialists, and other elected officials. Our task is to advise the Administration, including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the COVID-19 Command Center, on communication, distribution, and equity issues relating to a COVID-19 vaccine.
Recognizing that the number of vaccines available to Massachusetts will be limited for some time, our Advisory Group’s approach to recommending a statewide, multi-phase vaccine distribution plan was formed by a simple concept – we can best reduce the number of deaths from COVID-19 and reduce the risk of overwhelming our health care system by identifying: (1) those who are most likely to die from the virus; and (2) those who are critically needed to take care of COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable populations. We provided guidance to the Baker Administration based on this concept, understanding that the plan would need to be flexible to allow for future changes in CDC guidance, to help facilitate the return of children to the classroom, to keep essential businesses and services operating, etc.
How does this concept apply to the multi-phase vaccine rollout?
In Phase 1 (December 2020 – February 2021), the focus is on vaccinating: Front-facing health care providers and workers who care for and come in contact with COVID-19 patients; Those living and working in long-term care facilities, rest homes, and assisted living facilities; First responders: police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel; Those living and working in congregate care settings; and Home-based health care workers and other health care workers. Then in the upcoming Phase 2 (February – March 2021) the plan is to vaccinate: Those with 2+ comorbidities (i.e., high-risk for COVID-19 complications), individuals age 75+, and residents and staff of public and private low-income and affordable senior housing; Essential workers in education settings, grocery stores, transit workers, etc.; and Individuals age 65+ and those individuals with one co-morbidity. Phase 3 (starting April 2021) will open vaccination to everyone else.
Residents may fit into multiple phases, with the higher phase taking precedent. For example, if you are under the age of 75 but also work as a first responder, you are in Phase 1 because of your status as a first responder. If you are not at high-risk for COVID-19 complications, but you work as an essential worker, you are in Phase 2.
|Click here for a complete breakdown of all the population groups included in each Phase in order of priority.
|Despite the published multi-phase plan, much will change over the course of the next few weeks and months about our understanding of the virus and its variants, the number of different vaccines that will be available and their effectiveness, and the manufacturing and delivery schedules of those vaccines. We will need to adapt to these changes along the way. So far, the Commonwealth has taken a measured, science- and data-driven approach to ensure a fair and controlled vaccine rollout based on these phases. Unlike some other states, we didn’t abruptly change course and begin offering the vaccine before Phase 2 to those 65 and older, as a number of states did this week based on promises from the outgoing Trump administration that stockpiles of vaccines were being released imminently. As it turns out, we’ve learned just yesterday that those stockpiles don’t exist, which is leaving many of those states scrambling to ensure sufficient vaccines for those in Phase 1.
|Next, some data:
How is Phase 1 progressing in Massachusetts?
The Baker Administration provides a weekly COVID-19 vaccination report on its website.
|As you can see, as of this report, which uses data through January 12, Massachusetts has: Received 142,350 Pfizer doses from the federal government; Received 205,100 Moderna doses from the federal government; and Administered 239,147 doses to individuals in Phase 1. Shipments are received on a rolling basis and then distributed to vaccination sites, so there will always be a gap between doses received and doses administered, reflecting transit time within the state, and the time required to administer the vaccinations. But as you can see from the latest data, a large portion (~68%) of the limited number of vaccines that the state has received have already been administered. This process will continue to ramp up on an ongoing basis.
|Some thoughts about the weeks and months ahead:
The incoming Biden Administration has pledged to dramatically ramp up the purchasing and distribution of vaccines, and has suggested that these efforts will allow states to begin vaccinating everyone 65 and older. If and when we are certain that accelerated vaccine shipments are in the pipeline for Massachusetts, the state may be able to make changes to our vaccine distribution plan. I will keep you updated as any changes become public.
In the meantime, we must put all our energy into getting the vaccine rollout right so that we can get vaccines to those “next in line” as quickly as possible. As I mentioned earlier, Massachusetts has a measured, science- and data-driven vaccine distribution plan in place – it’s not perfect, but it can be flexible and it acknowledges that there will continue to be limited quantities of the vaccine available to our state at any given time. We need to stay the course so residents have confidence that the vaccine distribution will occur efficiently, fairly, and safely.
I hope this information is helpful and explains my perspective. I am happy to discuss this further. I know these are very challenging times. Everyone is doing the best they can to make the best decisions in a terrible situation. Please know that I understand how hard it is to wait – I wish I could be vaccinated now, but I will wait my turn with the other 65+ individuals!
|Stay safe and be well.