While visiting a new free drive-through testing site at Suffolk Downs Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker laid out a distribution plan for when COVID-19 vaccines are available.
Baker was joined by Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.
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The governor said the administration on Friday submitted an interim draft COVID-19 vaccination plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a requirement for all states.
“Vaccines and the importance of vaccines have always been a cornerstone of public health and keeping us well and safe,” said Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett, Vice Chair of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center. “I really hope that people see the COVID-19 vaccine within that same lens.”
She adds it’s critical for people to be vaccinated, but they must have confidence in the vaccine.
“Making sure that our science is safe and that we’re putting safety over politics and any sort of rush on a timeline,” she said. “That we’re distributing this when we are ready and when science is actually proven it's safe for the population.”
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The plan was developed by an interagency vaccine working group and led by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and advised by the state's COVID-19 advisory group, Baker said.
The plan, he said, lays out steps in the initial planning for a "robust distribution system" once one or more vaccines become available.
"We're planning for different phases of distribution based on how many vaccinations are available and when," Baker said.
The phases of distribution will be broken into health care workers likely to be exposed to the virus; people at increased risk for severe illness for COVID-19, including those with underlying health conditions and those over the age of 65; and essential workers, the governor said.
"The plan also outlines our messaging efforts to make sure people know once there is a vaccine available, that it has been approved by the federal government, and it is safe and effective," Baker said. "We'll also make it a priority to reach out specifically to groups that have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 including people in communities of color."
Baker made his remarks at the newly opened Project Beacon testing site which is located on Tomasello Way. The site is open seven days a week and has the capability to test 1,000 people a day, Baker said.
It will be open by appointment only and people must register first.
Arrigo said the testing site was important as the city is seeing cases almost doubling each day and the average age of those infected with COVID-19 is "treanding young."
"More testing and contract tracing is our best defense," Arrigo said.
Massachusetts reported 827 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the most since late May. Fifteen new deaths were also reported. The average percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive remains at 1.2%.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased to 500. Of that number, 86 were listed as being in intensive care units and 33 are intubated, according to state health officials.
That followed a weekend in which nearly 1,300 new cases and 35 new deaths from the virus were reported. The new cases logged brought the state's total over 140,000 since the first case was reported in February, according to Department of Public Health data.
Counting deaths among patients with confirmed and probable cases, a total of 9,752 people in Massachusetts have lost their lives to the pandemic. The daily percent of tested individuals who are positive was at or above 4% from Oct. 12-17, according to Sunday's report, and hit 5% on Oct. 15.
On Monday, the state launched a new text alert system aimed at residents of 10 communities with continual high COVID-19 risks. The text alerts will remind people that the pandemic is not over, and precautions like mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, maintaining physical distance and avoiding social gatherings are still necessary.