With COVID-19 vaccine for kids between 5 and 11 expected to arrive in Massachusetts by next week, Gov. Charlie Baker said plans are already in place to deliver the vaccine to the over 500,000 children who will be eligible.
"Most of it, I think, will be done by the hundreds of sites already available in Massachusetts, with the addition of a whole bunch of pediatricians' offices and community health care providers," Baker said during a GBH News interview Tuesday. "And in some parts of Massachusetts, the regional collaboratives that we set up to do boosters will also be doing pediatric shots as well."
About 515,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Massachusetts could become eligible for COVID-19 shots by early November and 360,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine are expected to arrive in the Bay State no later than Nov. 5, state health officials told lawmakers last week.
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Baker said the state may look to set up additional vaccine distribution efforts in areas where there are so-called "deserts" or in cities and towns where people are looking for additional sites.
"To begin with, I think you're going to see a lot of it happen in places where kids normally get a lot of their flu shots," he said, like pharmacies and doctors offices.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's independent advisory committee is meeting Tuesday to consider approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids as young as 5 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's advisory group does the same on Nov. 2 and 3.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said last week that 289 health care providers with hundreds of locations in Massachusetts have so far indicated to the state that they plan to vaccinate kids. Those efforts will be supplemented by pharmacies, mobile vaccination programs and school-based clinics.
Health care providers will get half of the state's initial allotment of pediatric doses and pharmacies that are part of the federal program will get the other half. Going forward, providers will order additional doses directly from the federal government and report their deliveries to the state, Sudders said.
Also during Tuesday's GBH News interview, Baker was asked about how slowly the state Legislature is moving on efforts to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts. Especially when about 30 other states are already allowing it.
"That's my big worry is just the number of states that are already pretty far.. a whole bunch of states are already pretty far around the bases, down the field, take your pick," he said. "And I certainly know people who live in Massachusetts who drive to New Hampshire just to do it.
"I don't know why we wouldn't just incorporate the very basic framework that's been adopted by most of these places so the people of Massachusetts can play and to generate the revenue associated with it," Baker added. "It's pretty clear this is going to be where the country goes, and I don't know why we wouldn't just sign up like everybody else."
Sen. Eric Lesser, who co-chairs the Economic Development Committee, said Tuesday that the Senate still has not reached consensus on the House-backed idea.
Lesser said his bill remains "live and under active conversation and negotiation," in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, but senators continue to grapple with how consumers will be protected.
Asked if the Senate would act by the end of the year, Lesser replied, "I do think we're getting close, but I do think front of our minds and a big priority for me is going to be making sure those consumer protection and game integrity issues are really front and center."
GBH host Jim Braude also tried to press Baker Tuesday on whether he's running for another term as governor. But Baker didn't say all that much.
"It's a very complicated issue, Jim, for all kinds of reasons," he said. "There are lots of considerations that go into a decision like this. Some are professional and some are personal. But anybody who makes a decision about something like this without thinking really hard about it isn't doing themselves, their families or the communities they want to serve any favors. You're signing up for something that is hugely important if you decide to do it. It comes with an enormous amount of opportunity and at the same time tremendous challenges, many of which you don't get to know about in advance."