Baker: J&J pause not significantly slowing vaccine effort
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is forging ahead with plans to vaccinate as many residents as possible, despite placing a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on the advice of federal authorities, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.
The vast majority of vaccine shots being administered in Massachusetts are the Moderna and Pfizer two-shot vaccines, according to the Republican.
The J&J vaccine accounted for just about 3% of the vaccines set to be administered in the state this week, Baker said.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating clots in six women that occurred in the days after vaccination.
None of the six cases occurred in Massachusetts, Baker said.
He said the state is waiting for more guidance from federal health officials which he said could come within the next several days. He said those who have already received the J&J shot should contact their health provider if they start experiencing symptoms like severe abdominal pain, severe leg pain or severe headaches. He said general flu-like symptoms are to be expected.
Despite concerns over the J&J vaccine, Baker urged residents to continue getting their vaccine shots.
“Vaccines save lives,” he said, pointing to a dramatic drop in cases and hospitalizations among the state’s elderly population, the majority of whom have received their vaccine shots.
Baker also said that the Red Sox are teaming up with the mass vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center next week to encourage members of disproportionately impacted communities to get vaccinated with the help of bilingual staff, signs in Spanish, appearances by Wally the Green Monster and a raffle for tickets to an upcoming Red Sox game.
On Monday, everyone 16 and older will be able to sign up for an appointment to receive a vaccine in Massachusetts, although Baker cautioned that it could take several weeks to actually receive a shot given the pent-up demand.
UMASS TUITION FREEZE
The University of Massachusetts trustees voted Wednesday to approve President Marty Meehan’s proposal to freeze tuition for most students over concerns that many are struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote applies to all in-state undergraduate and graduate students at the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses for the academic year that starts in the fall. The freeze also applies to out-of-state students at Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell.
“This freeze was made possible by the active management of university finances at the system and campus levels,” trustees Chair Robert Manning said in a statement. “The decisions made over the last year have ensured that the university will emerge from the pandemic in a strong, stable financial condition.”
The university has also increased its institutionally funded financial aid to a record high of $352 million this fiscal year.
“We recognize the very real challenges that our students and their families continue to face due to the pandemic and we are committed to doing everything within our control to lessen the burden while also preserving the quality of a UMass education,” Meehan said in a statement.
UMass has about 75,000 students across the four undergraduate campuses and a medical school in Worcester.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 2,000 Wednesday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 14.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,082 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 624,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 710 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 160 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 59. There were an estimated 36,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
There were 9,018 probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities.
More than 4.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 2.8 million first doses and more than 1.6 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
More than 1.8 million people have been fully immunized.