Massachusetts plans on closing four of its seven mass vaccination sites by the end of June in favor of a more targeted approach to reach the roughly 30% of the state's eligible population that has not yet received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.
The state will instead send more doses to 22 smaller regional sites, expand mobile vaccination efforts, and bring vaccine clinics to senior centers, YMCAs, houses of worship and other community sites, the Republican governor said at a news conference.
While there has been some hesitancy among people who have not yet been vaccinated, more often that not, it’s a matter of convenience, Baker said, and he wants to make it as easy as possible to get a shot.
The state can change it focus because it is on target to reach its goal of getting more than 4 million people vaccinated by the end of May.
“Now that we believe we are going to hit the 4.1 million goal we started with over the course of the next few weeks, it's time to adapt or vaccination effort to get make sure we get to some of the harder to reach populations,” he said.
Mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium, the Doubletree hotel in Danvers, the Natick Mall and the Hynes Convention Center in Boston will close at the end of June.
Baker stressed, however, that there are still plenty of appointments available at all four sites.
Dr. Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at Mass General Brigham, addressed people who may still be wary of a vaccine.
“We now have data from 150 million people who are getting vaccinated, which continues to prove the safety and efficacy of these vaccines," he said. “We now have multiple studies in the scientific literature that demonstrates in the real world that the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines is what we saw in the clinical research trials."
Baker also said he would not mandate vaccines for state employees as Democratic state attorney general and possible gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey have suggested.
Support is growing for a permanent memorial to the more than 400 Worcester residents who have died from COVID-19.
City Councilor Sarai Rivera initially floated the idea in March, and Councilor At-Large Donna Colorio brought it up again last week when she asked City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. to consider a permanent memorial, The Telegram & Gazette reported.
Other councilors supported the idea.
Colorio suggested there might be space at Green Hill Park or on the Common or downtown.
“I think it would mean a lot to people,” she said.
Augustus said he thought such a memorial should be something that tells a story, perhaps through an informational-kiosk component.
Rivera said it has been a challenging year, and future generations should know what the city went through, and what it learned.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 480 Monday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 18.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,288 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 648,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 520 people reported hospitalized Monday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 130 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 61. There were an estimated 24,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
More than 6.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 3.6 million first doses and more than 2.4 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
There have been about 210,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
More than 2.6 million people have been fully immunized.