As Mass. Readies for Its COVID Vaccines, Residents Ask When and Whether to Get It

The vaccines are safe for the public, but there are good reasons that a few people should not get the vaccine, at least off the bat

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Now that Massachusetts' new coronavirus vaccine plan has been announced, residents are beginning to take in the news and figure out what it means for them.

The vaccine distribution plan Gov. Charlie Baker released Wednesday establishes three phases. The vaccines are safe, as doctors have attested, but there are good reasons that a few people should not get the vaccine, at least off the bat.

"Obviously it's a very exciting time right now for all of us," said Monica O'Neill of Westborough, who is six months pregnant with her second child.

"I've actually been having this ongoing conversation with my clinician about the benefit ratio for a pregnant woman at this time," she said.

Because O'Neill is pregnant, she said she'll be holding off on her COVID vaccine until she delivers in March.

Major hospitals in Massachusetts are taking extra precautions for their pregnant patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. At UMass Medical Center in Worcester, a clinic has been dedicated just for expectant mothers who have the disease.

"Given the fact that the data just doesn't currently have pregnant women enrolled as part of the cohorts in the clinical trial ... we honestly feel more comfortable to actually wait until spring once I deliver," O'Neill said.

The data just isn't there yet for pregnant women, said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"I would expect this vaccine to be completely safe in women who are pregnant, but we just unfortunately don't have the data," he said.

Still, the public, overall, should be confident in the vaccine, Kuritzkes said.

As the nation gets ready to start receiving vaccinations for COVID-19, it's important to understand the side effects. Here is what doctors are saying people can expect.

"I've carefully reviewed the data that the FDA put out yesterday and this was a study of 43,000 people. It showed that this vaccine is safe and effective," Kuritzkes said.

The study included people who had other health issues, like heard disease and diabetes, and the vaccine "was really well tolerated in all of them," he added.

Another group that may not want to get the vaccine right away is people who get "significant" allergic reactions, the United Kingdom's drug regulator said Wednesday after it began distributing the vaccine.

If anyone has any medical concerns about whether they should take the vaccine, Kuritzkes said they should consult with their own primary care provider, adding that "this vaccine was given to more than 21,000 people and shown to be really extremely well tolerated."

A poll released this week found that 36% of Massachusetts residents plan to take the vaccine right away, while 47% would wait until after either a few or many people have taken it.

MASS. VACCINE DETAILS: Governor's Plan on Who Will Get It and When

Just 7% of respondents said they would never take a coronavirus vaccine.

Baker's plan calls for the first vaccines to go to health care workers, and long-term care facilities, first responders, congregate care settings including both shelters and correctional facilities, home-based health care workers and health care workers who do not interact directly with COVID care.

The second phase would offer vaccines to adults with two or more comorbidities that create risks for COVID-19 complications would be first in line, followed by workers in fields such as transit, education, and grocery stores, then adults 65 years old and older and individuals with just one comorbidity.

The final phase, currently expected to begin in the spring, would make the vaccine available to the general population.

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