The new COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Massachusetts just before Christmas for clinical and non-clinical health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care.
While staff at clinics across Massachusetts have been vaccinated, North End Waterfront Health (NEW Health) Medical Director Dr. John Foster said while many patients are understandably anxious to get the new COVID vaccine as soon as possible most people will have to remain patient.
“Because of limited initial supplies of vaccine, there is a highly structured and regulated process that will be followed, which prioritizes vaccines first for healthcare workers and residents of long-term care and congregate-living facilities,” said Foster. “As such, the orderly distribution of vaccines will be controlled by large health system employers (such as hospitals) and health care management at long term care or congregate-living facilities.”
Foster said the staff of NEW Health has no role in ordering or distributing vaccines at this time, and it is likely that the next wave of vaccines for essential personnel such as police, firefighters, etc. will not be getting vaccine until early 2021.
“The general public will be vaccinated in the subsequent phase, likely based on medical risk status,” he said. “At that point, we anticipate that NEW Health will be actively involved in vaccinating patients. So this is all good news, but everyone will still need to follow the usual mitigation measures well into 2021.”
Two weeks ago the Baker-Polito Administration launched a COVID-19 vaccine dashboard to update the public on vaccine distribution and progress on a weekly basis. The dashboard will be posted every Thursday by 5 p.m. and will include information on vaccine supply distribution, administration and other data. The new dashboard can be found on the mass.gov/covidvaccine website.
So far the state has vaccinated just over 35,000 during the first wave of vaccinations last week.
“This vaccination dashboard report builds on the state’s ongoing efforts to publicly report out data and will help track the state’s vaccination efforts for COVID-19,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Currently, the Commonwealth produces one of the most comprehensive public data reports on COVID-19 in the nation and includes detailed municipal-level data, information on contact tracing, COVID-19 clusters and more.”
The state will roll out vaccines during a three phase approach that will take place between now and April.
The first phase, which was kicked off last week, includes clinical and non-clinical health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care. Most health care workers and first responders will be vaccinated at their place of employment. Individuals living and working in long term care will be vaccinated as part of the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program.
Phase II will be between February and March 2021 and will include individuals with two or more comorbid conditions with a high risk for COVID-19 complications; other workers including early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, restaurant and cafe workers; employees across the food, beverages, agriculture, consumer goods, retail, and foodservice sectors; meatpackers; sanitation, public works and public health workers, vaccine development workers, food pantry workers, Uber/Lyft/rideshare services/pharmacy delivery drivers, workers in the passenger ground transportation industry; water and wastewater utility staff; and adults 65 and over.
Starting in April the state anticipates the vaccine will be available to the general public once the higher risk groups in Phase I and II receive their vaccines.