Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday held a press conference outlining information regarding the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine, and when residents can expect to receive it.
“For months, we’ve been preparing for the safe, equitable, and efficient distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized by the federal government,” Baker said. He spoke about the state’s distribution plan for the vaccine, which “hinges on the FDA”s emergency use authorization for a vaccine, which seems imminent for Pfizer and Moderna.”
Baker went through the plan as it stands now, though he advised residents that it is subject to change, depending on several different factors.
Phase One of the distribution, which is expected to begin this month, prioritizes “clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-facing care; long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities; police, fire and emergency medical services; congregate care settings (including shelters and corrections; home-based healthcare workers; [and] healthcare workers doing non-COVID facing care,” in order of priority, according to the state.
Baker said that the state has been allocated 300,000 first doses, and almost 60,000 of them are expected to arrive in the state on December 15. He said that 164,000 of the doses will go to ‘clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-facing care,” 64m000 will go to first responders, about about 102,000 will go to “congregate care residents and staff. These doses are expected to be a combination of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Phase Two is expected to being in February, and prioritize in order “individuals with 2+ comorbidities (high risk for COVID-19 complications), early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers, adults 65+, [and ]individuals with one comorbidity,” according to the state.
Phase Three is expected to begin in April, where the vaccine would be available to the general public.
“Massachusetts won’t distribute a vaccine until it receives FDA authorization for emergency use,” Baker said. “As the vaccine infrastructure ramps up, the Commonwealth will make vaccines available in more health care settings, including pharmacies, local health departments, and in public health clinics.”
Baker added that the vaccine will be “free of charge to all individuals and insurance companies will not charge any out of pocket charge or copayments.”
He said that it is “still too early” and there are “still too many variables still being worked out” to asses exactly when the third phase would begin, but the goal right now is to begin distributing the vaccine to the general public in April.
“Safety is fundamental and paramount,” Baker said. “Vaccines go through more testing than any other pharmaceutical, including extensive testing in clinical trials.” He continued, “again, vaccines will be safe, and no one would distribute them if they weren’t.”
Baker also spoke about the state’s commitment to the “equitable distribution of the vaccine,” and the recognition that “communities of color and low income people” have been “disproportionately” affected by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group and the administration is working to make sure that these people are heard Baker said, and that “communities of color and at risk populations are prioritized in distribution timelines, and our administration will be focusing intently on reaching these individuals and making clear that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Baker said.
Baker asked Massachusetts residents to continue to be “patient” and to get their information “from trusted sources.” He said that “vaccine distribution will be a long process that plays out over several months and these timelines could change based on production. Massachusetts will continue to work with the federal government to ensure a safe, equitable, and efficient distribution of these vaccines but there are some elements of this process that will evolve over time.”
Baker said that after a person’s first dose of the vaccine, they must wait six weeks to receive a second dose for immunity.
“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet,” Baker said, and urged residents to continue following state guidelines, including wearing a mask and avoiding gatherings. A Frequently Asked Questions section as well as more information about the vaccine and the proposed timeline can be found at mass.gov/covidvaccine