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Baker: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout to Begin This Month
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
01:37PM / Tuesday, December 01, 2020
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Gov. Charlie Baker says on Tuesday that general access to a novel coronavirus vaccine probably won't happen on the second quarter of the new year.

BOSTON — Widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines probably won't occur until late spring, Gov. Charlie Baker said at his pandemic update on Tuesday. 
 
The governor said he anticipated that the focus would be on high-risk individuals as the vaccines are rolled out in December and the first part of the year.
 
"The focus is going to be on the people we are all the most worried about, right, either because of what they do for work or because of their age, or because of their physical condition," he said.
 
Federal officials on a call Monday told governors that the vaccine distribution is expected to begin in mid-December and through March, Baker said. The vaccine by Pfizer would roll out first, followed by Moderna shortly after that. 
 
"AstraZeneca is still working through their clinical trials and so is Johnson & Johnson," he said. 
 
Moderna and Pfizer are both two-dose vaccines while Johnson & Johnson, which is still going through a 60,000-person clinical trial, is one dose. The two-dose vaccines are meant to be taken several weeks apart. 
 
"It's going to take a while before people would literally start finishing the vaccine process itself and start to generate antibodies," Baker said. "So, the way I've thought about it is the focus early on both here and in other places around the country is going to be high-risk individuals to begin with." 
 
The federal government is setting up a distribution framework based on how the states would process their rollouts. Baker said Massachusetts would be submitting further comment on distribution policies for final submissions on Friday.  
 
He anticipated that it would be in the second quarter of the year before any vaccines were readily available. 
 
Baker also cautioned residents to continue to take precautions over the holiday season, including at houses of worship. 
 
"Now we know that houses of worship have always served as a place of refuge, especially in difficult times like this," he said. "During this time, especially as we head into this holiday season of faith and hope, houses of worship play an enormously strong and important role in many communities and in the lives of individuals and families across the commonwealth."
 
Faith leaders have "responded admirably" during the pandemic by innovating ways to gather such as online drive-in services. But, the governor said, data analysis of COVID-19 cases has found "too many clusters" stemming from houses of worship.
 
There have been 36 clusters leading to 316 confirmed cases and 150 close contacts. Forty-eight communities have had one or more probable cases associated with a house of worship cluster event. In the last month, there were six clusters and 44 confirmed cases. In the largest case, there were 200 cases that then exposed 90 businesses and organizations.
 
"I think it's critically important if you do attend an in-person service, please do wear a mask. Keep your distance," Baker said. "Remember that in-person gatherings especially indoors, have an increased risk for COVID spread."
 
In answer to a question about the recent Supreme Court decision finding against New York State's orders limiting occupancy in houses of worship, Baker said he didn't think it related to Massachusetts because New York had set different standards for religious organizations.
 
"I think our view is that as long as you don't treat houses of worship differently than you treat other organizations with respect to the rules associated with occupancy levels and distancing and face coverings and all the rest, we believe that's consistent with that decision," he said. 
 
Baker also cautioned residents about falling for "rumormongering" when it comes to reports about what may or may not end up being closed. He said there were no intentions of more restrictions at this point. The state has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases but new case growth has slowed over the past 10 days, he said, pointing to the stay-at-home advisory and occupancy limits enacted a few weeks ago.
 
"While it's only 10 days, the slower case growth and steadier positive rates are an improvement compared to the sharp increases that we saw the few weeks before," he said."That didn't happen by accident."
 
In regard to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, airline travel year over year was down about 60 percent, bus and train travel over the weekend was down about 80 percent, and automobile travel was down about five to 8 percent. The gorvernor said sales of smaller turkeys went fast, indicating that people were not hosting large gatherings.
 
Secretary for Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said new locations for homeless and others in need of therapeutic space for isolation and recovery are being set up in Taunton and Pittsfield. Pittsfield's location will be ready next week. These are part of a network of hotels set up at the beginning of the pandemic. More than 900 individuals have been served to date.  
 
In response to a question about testing deserts in Berkshire County and Cape Cod, the governor said 250 sites have been setup but the state is reviewing locations with the consideration of winter coming and "given the changing nature of where cases have gone around the commonwealth."
 
The governor acknowledged the past year has been difficult but asked residents to continue to abide by pandemic policies over the holidays. 
 
"We know that it's difficult to ask people to modify these time-honored traditions," Baker said. "The COVID has no intention of taking the holiday off."
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