|First-Responders to Start Receiving Vaccinations Jan. 11|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff |
02:01PM / Monday, January 04, 2021
|Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders explains that health-care providers shipped the vaccine are not allowing any doses to go to waste.|
BOSTON — First-responders in the commonwealth will be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting Jan. 11, and Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said he expects them to be enthusiastic participants in the vaccination program.
Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services workers will be part of the next wave of the state's program, which began last month with health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
Later this week, Berkshire County first-responders will be able to start signing up for appointments at one of three county vaccination centers, according to the state's website
: St. Elizabeth's Parish Center in North Adams, Berkshire Community College's Paterson Field House in Pittsfield and the W.E.B. Du Bois Middle School in Great Barrington.
"With respect to first responders, I think that obviously we all agree that distribution can't happen soon enough, but the process also needs to be thoughtful and thorough," Baker said during his midday news conference. "While hospitals and long-term care facilities continue to distribute doses, we've been finalizing plans with other groups."
Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders faced questions from the Beacon Hill press corps about reports that some first-responders were expressing hesitancy about receiving the vaccine.
But Sudders said she heard no such concerns in a conference call last week with nearly 600 "police, fire and emergency colleagues."
"There were two questions that came up in the hour meeting, and they were very specific questions," Sudders said. "Someone had a very specific medical condition and wanted to know if they should take the vaccine, and in those very specific medical concerns, we say the best thing for you to do is to go back to your health-care provider and ask them. For someone who is receiving treatment for, say, cancer, and whether they should receive a vaccine, that is such a specific medical situation -- that's not a 'frequently asked question' kind of response.
"We are building out public awareness, per se, but it really didn't come up. It was more the mechanics of: How will the vaccine program work out?"
First-responders on the conference call were more concerned about the logistical decisions of holding drive-in clinics versus requiring appointments, Sudders said.
Baker said officials anticipated there would be some people in all walks of life who would be hesitant to be the first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but he believes that first-responders, in general, are eager to be vaccinated so they can protect themselves and, more importantly, their families.
"I don't think anybody expected at the beginning of this process that there wouldn't be people who would think about this as a 'wait and see,' " Baker said. "That's not unusual.
"I will say this: Generally speaking the first-responder community has been justifiably concerned about their health and the health of their family members ever since this pandemic began. And many of them have advocated to the committee that the secretary set up that they should be early in the process, given the role they play, what they do and how they are affected by their time at work with regard to their exposure to COVID. We agree with that.
"I'll tell you the reason I believe the vast majority of them will accept the vaccine. They, like many of the folks in the health-care community and the long-term care community say the same thing when they talk to the lieutenant governor and me, which is, 'I'm out there all the time. I worry about the places and spaces I'm in. I'm worried that if I get it I might give it to family members.' They are exactly the kind of folks who talk a lot about protecting their family, and that's why I believe, in the end, the vast majority of them will step up and get it."
Baker reported Monday that the commonwealth has shipped 287,000 doses of vaccines to health-care providers and, as of Monday morning, just more than 116,000 had been reported as having been administered. But both Baker and Sudders said there is a lag of a couple of days in reporting those vaccinations, so they expect the number of doses actually received to be higher.
As for COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth, the state Department of Public Health reported 3,110 new cases on Sunday, and the state currently has 2,291 COVID-19 cases in hospitals with 416 in intensive care units.
In response to a question, Baker said that, so far, his sense is that the post-Christmas "surge" is not as great as the one Massachusetts saw after Thanksgiving, but he cautioned that it is early, since the year's last major holiday, New Year's Eve, was just a few days earlier.
As usual, he pleaded with Bay State residents to continue to follow face-covering and social-distancing guidelines, and he said he would have an announcement later in the week about whether he plans to continue the current restrictions on commerce that are in effect through Jan. 10.
Baker also seized on a question about the current political climate in Washington, D.C., to chastise politicians for paying more attention to doomed efforts to overturn the presidential election than to responding to the pandemic.
"We just finished 20 minutes of Q&A with you all about the largest and most significant and potentially life-saving vaccine rollout in U.S. history that I think everyone at this point would say can't happen fast enough," Baker said, pounding his hands together for emphasis. "I think everybody would also agree that there have been bumps associated with the rollout that we all expected and anticipated with the notion that the world would eventually start to spin and things would work the way they should.
"That, in my view, is where our colleagues at the federal level should be focusing their time attention: doing everything they all, together, can do to make sure every vulnerable American, every health-care worker, every long-term care resident, every long-term care staff member and everybody else gets access to those two doses as soon as is practically possible. That should be the focus, right now, of what our colleagues in Washington are up to."