Freshly sworn into office, Boston Mayor Kim Janey got a dose of the coronavirus vaccine Friday as she announced a new grant program to create equitable access.
"The vaccine is essential for our recovery, reopening and renewal. People are anxious to live their best lives," Janey said. "I am trusting the data. I am trusting the science and I want to lead by example."
The $1.5 million Vaccine Equity Grant Initiative will direct in-person outreach to help residents get vaccine appointments and support public awareness efforts to build confidence in vaccines efficacy, Janey said. Awardees will be announced in mid-April.
Janey announced the grant initiative during a Friday press briefing at the Roxbury YMCA, where she was scheduled to get the vaccine immediately after. The mayor became eligible after volunteering at vaccination clinics, including the Martin Luther King Towers earlier Friday morning.
"Today is my turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine," Janey said. "I'm choosing to get the shot because vaccination is an important tool to protect ourselves, to protect our communities, and all those that we love, and to help stop the pandemic."
On Thursday, Boston reported 335 new confirmed cases for a total of 62,874. No new deaths were reported, leaving the death toll at 1,331. Half of the new cases in the past two weeks have come from Bostonians under the age of 29, Janey said.
"The arrival of spring and the rollout of vaccines bring new hope to our battle against COVID-19," Janey said. "We all want to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, but we must remain vigilant against the virus. The latest COVID-19 data makes clear our fight is far from over."
People of color currently represent 45% of the vaccines that have been distributed in the city of Boston, according to Janey, which she said indicates the vaccine equity access line is working.
"We know that people of color are more likely to get COVID-19 and if they do, they are more likely to die," Janey said.
Janey emphasized the importance of educating people about the vaccine in order to make an informed decision, as well as the significance of those in powerful positions to lead by example.
"As a person of color, I too have experienced racism in health care," Janey said, noting that communities of color are no more hesitant than other groups.
"I want to make clear, this is not about getting back to normal. Normal was hurting too many folks with health gaps, as well as wealth gaps in the city of Boston. We have to ensure that we come out of this pandemic stronger than before in a much more equitable city than before," Janey said.
Boston residents can call the equity and vaccine access line at 617-635-5555 to help schedule an appointment or provide their contact information online.
When calling the access line, residents ages 65 or older will be asked to press one, while residents who are currently eligible to get vaccinated and identify as a person of color will be asked to press two.
While all partnerships will be considered in the new program, Janey said the Vaccine Equity Grant Initiative will prioritize partnerships or organizations that have not previously been engaged in this work.
"As we begin a new chapter in our city, we are inviting new partners to the table in our fight against COVID-19," Janey said.
Health and Human Services will lead the program's process in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, starting with a request for proposal on March 31.
Meanwhile, Boston Public School teachers are "prepared" to return to classrooms after April vacation, Janey said, but the city will continue to monitor coronavirus data.
Boston Public Schools announced Wednesday that it had received state approval to delay the return to full-time in-person learning for K-8 students until April 26, as Superintendent Brenda Cassellius had asked. Until then, students will continue on their current learning model, officials said.
Approximately 60% of Boston's K-12 educators have gotten access to the coronavirus vaccine to date, according to Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez.
"We have to do this responsibly and safely. Teachers just recently became eligible for the vaccine despite their strong advocacy to get vaccinated earlier," Janey said Friday. "We have to ensure that more educators are getting the shot and not just our educators all of our support staff, and we believe that this extra time will help us do that."
Janey has been busy since she was sworn in as Boston's first Black mayor and first female mayor Wednesday. The historic moment put her in the national spotlight, with appearances on "TODAY" and "The Rachel Maddow Show."
Janey took over from Marty Walsh, who stepped down Monday after being confirmed as President Joe Biden's labor secretary. The city is cautiously taking steps to reopen and recover from the pandemic, a process she vowed to continue.
On Thursday, Janey took part in a ceremony with Gov. Charlie Baker recognizing National Medal of Honor Day and visited small businesses in South Boston.