Coronavirus

Baker says 2 million people will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Mass. by end of week

Baker reiterated the vaccine “saves lives” and that people should get it once they’re eligible. So far more than 1.7 million people have been fully vaccinated in the state.

Baker and his team have a call with federal officials on Tuesday, he said, when they hope to get more information about the plan for shipments of the J& J vaccine.

He said he hopes the weekly shipments remain consistent going forward.

“Whatever the number is going to be, just stay there,” Baker said, adding he hopes the allotment remains consistent whether it’s anywhere from between 30,000 or 60,000 each week.

“And I’ve said several times that, you know, supply will be an issue. But I do believe that . . . by the time we get to Memorial Day a significant number of people in Massachusetts will have been vaccinated,” Baker said.

He also provided an update on testing, telling reporters more than 20 million tests have been conducted in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.

“I can’t make this point enough,” Baker said. “Testing continues to remain a critical part of how we fight COVID.”

Family Health Center president and chief executive Louis Brady told reporters his organization has been battling the pandemic on the front lines and has long been dedicated to serving local residents.

“I want to acknowledge that we at the health center have been committed to this for 49 years, that we have been working to ensure access and equity and making sure that anyone and everyone who wants health care can achieve it,” Brady said.

Brady said his center “felt that it’s important that our folks have access to this vaccine if we’re going to get any traction on rebuffing the pandemic . . . We’re very pleased that we are now able to access the federal supply, and that’s a critical component to the supply chain opening up.”

While thousands are getting vaccinated every day, the threat of coronavirus variants is increasing. State officials said Monday that more than 1,400 coronavirus variant cases have now been detected in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said 1,280 cases have been confirmed of the fast-spreading and more deadly variant that emerged in Great Britain, along with 113 cases of the variant that emerged in Brazil, and 12 cases of the variant that emerged in South Africa.

The 1,405 total variant cases in Massachusetts was up sharply from 1,071 as of the middle of last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend reported lower figures for Massachusetts, saying 1,100 cases had been confirmed of the British variant, along with 102 cases of the Brazilian variant and 12 cases of the South African variant.

Those numbers meant the state had the fourth highest total number of British variant cases detected among the states, the second highest number of Brazilian variant cases, and the 13th highest number of South African variant cases, according to the CDC.

Experts and officials say the totals underrepresent the actual number of cases circulating. The genomic sequencing needed to look for variants is done only on a limited number of tests. The numbers are “based on a sampling of SARS-CoV-2-positive specimens and do not represent the total number of . . . cases that may be circulating,” the CDC says on its website.

The variants have caused concern because of their potential to spread faster and cause more severe disease. The British variant, which has become the most common in the United States, is about 60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to the most recent estimates. But the vaccines being administered across the United States offer good protection against the British variant.

Also on Monday, the CDC released two new studies that found racial and ethnic disparities in both coronavirus emergency room visits and hospitalizations, adding yet more evidence that some minority groups have been hit harder by the pandemic.

The emergency room study looked at data from 13 states, including Massachusetts, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020. It found that Hispanic and Native American people had 1.7 times the rate of emergency room visits of white people. Black people had 1.4 times the rate of emergency room visits of white people.

The study noted that “systemic inequities . . . include limited access to quality health care, lower general health status and access to quality education, and disproportionate representation in essential jobs with less flexibility to work from home or take medical leave.”

Racism is “a key driver” of the health inequities, the study said, which can increase someone’s risk of getting the coronavirus and delay medical care for someone who has it.

The second study found, consistent with previous studies, that “racial and ethnic minority groups experienced higher proportions of COVID-19–related hospitalization compared with White patients.”

The study was based on an analysis of hospitalizations from a database including more than 3.7 million hospital discharges and approximately 300,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients during March–December 2020.

Efforts like managing underlying health conditions, increased access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations “to reach disproportionately affected racial/ethnic groups and reduce the need for emergency care for COVID-19.”

“Efforts such as these are critical to address the drivers of racial/ethnic disparities,” the study said.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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