coronavirus

Feds Cut Next Mass. Pfizer Vaccine Shipments by 20%; More Help Coming, Baker Says

The governor also gave more details on the next step of the vaccine rollout in Massachusetts: residents and workers at long-term care facilities, starting the week of Dec. 28

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What to Know

  • Gov. Charlie Baker said the reduction in shipment size from the federal government is frustrating, but won't seriously impact the first phase of vaccine distribution.
  • Vaccines will start going to long-term care facilities the week of Dec. 28, via CVS and Walgreens teams working in a partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baker said.
  • The following group to be vaccinated in Massachusetts will be first responders; nursing and medical students and EMTs have been approved to be vaccinators.

Massachusetts upcoming shipments of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine are being reduced by 20%, officials said Friday, a bump in Massachusetts' rollout, which began this week with more than 6,200 vaccinations of health care workers.

At a news conference where he also gave more details about the next steps of the vaccine rollout -- for long-term care facilities and first responders -- Gov. Charlie Baker said the reduction in shipment size from the federal government is frustrating, but won't seriously impact the first phase of vaccine distribution.

More help is likely on the way in the form of the vaccine from Cambridge-based Moderna, expected to get final approval from the Food and Drug Administration by the end of Friday.

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"Given ... the size of the task and the magnitude of the undertaking, we expected and anticipated that it would be a little bumpy," Baker said of the start of the vaccine's distribution.

The Boston Globe first reported the state's next shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be reduced by nearly 20,000 doses. Baker said that would be true of "the next few allocations of doses," and other states will have a similar reduction.

"It's not clear to us why the shipment amounts have been adjusted. It's certainly frustrating to us," Baker said.

The reduction comes despite Pfizer saying it has millions of doses ready to be shipped from a warehouse.

Massachusetts is now expecting over 145,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, down from about 180,000, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said. That's a 20% reduction, though she said the news that vials of Pfizer's vaccine were yielding an unexpected sixth dose could help the commonwealth "catch up a little bit."

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker details the rollout of phase 1 COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the state.

Regardless, Baker said he expects the delay caused by the vaccine shipment reductions to be slight, and won't stop the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals currently getting their first doses of the vaccine from getting the necessary second shot.

Baker also gave more details on the next step of the vaccine rollout in Massachusetts: residents and workers at long-term care facilities, which have been among the hardest hit by the virus throughout the pandemic. The elderly are among the group at highest risk for complications from COVID-19.

Vaccines will start going to long-term care facilities the week of Dec. 28, via CVS and Walgreens teams working in a partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baker said.

Gov. Charlie Baker is urging Massachusetts residents not to gather in groups during the upcoming holidays, warning that such activities over Thanksgiving led to a significant spike in coronavirus cases.

The next group that will get vaccinated in Massachusetts will be first responders. Sudders said that the state is scouting locations where they can administer the vaccine to that group, and will release more information on the process in the coming weeks.

She added that nursing and medical students and EMTs have been approved to be vaccinators in a bid to increase the number of people able to give the shots.

Seeking to help employers while maintaining payments for the jobless, the Baker administration on Friday filed legislation to add $1.3 billion in unemployment relief over the next two years. It includes a tax schedule freeze and the issuance of bonds to repay federal unemployment support.

Massachusetts, which is in the throes of a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases, topped 300,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday.

"Thanksgiving set us back," Baker said of the surge he credited to many in-person gatherings. He added that the upcoming holiday season offers "a whole slew of opportunities ... where people will have to make private, personal choices."

Moderna received approval from the FDA Friday night, meaning Americans now have two COVID-19 vaccine options. Moderna's vaccine is said to be easier to store than Pfizer's vaccine, and millions of doses are already ready to be shipped.

He hoped that Massachusetts residents make responsible choices and hold off of getting together with people outside their homes over Christmas, the New Year and other upcoming holidays.

For the first time, more than half of Massachusetts' communities, 187, are considered at the highest risk for transmitting the coronavirus, according to the latest weekly community-level data on the pandemic.

The new total overtakes last week's record of 158 towns and cities in the report's red zone last week, which was itself a massive 61-community increase over the week before. The numbers, from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, have been increasing steadily for weeks, as have coronavirus case numbers, amid a new surge in coronavirus cases. (See this week's full red zone list below.)

The record previously stood at 121, when the state had a different definition of high risk for communities.

Boston and several neighboring communities are rolling back to a modified version of Phase 2, Step 2 of Massachusetts' reopening plan Wednesday. Other cities and towns including Arlington, Brockton, Lynn, Newton, Somerville and Winthrop are joining Boston in its rollback as coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket across the region.
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