More virus vaccine doses could be coming for MA, Baker says

BOSTON (AP) — The Biden administration is promising additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for states including Massachusetts, but hasn’t offered specific details about the exact size of the increase for each state or when the additional supply will be delivered, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.

Baker said Massachusetts is prepared to administer about 300,000 vaccine shots a week by mid-February depending on how much vaccine the state receives from the federal government.

The Republican governor said he understands the frustration felt by many as they try to make an appointment for a shot but said “more and more time slots will be added on a rolling basis as we get additional supply.”

Baker said the administration is also looking for other ways to help individuals navigate the process of signing up for a shot. Those who are eligible to receive a shot but who haven’t been able to make an appointment should continue to check back and can visit the state’s website for information.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 83 on Wednesday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 14,013 since the start of the pandemic.

The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 3,000 and its confirmed caseload rose to more than 484,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 1,900 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 420 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 70. There were an estimated nearly 81,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,975.

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VACCINE ROLLOUT

All Massachusetts residents age 75 and older are now eligible to make an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but Wednesday's online rollout did not go smoothly for some.

Residents could start scheduling an appointment starting at midnight for shots being administered starting Monday at one of more than 80 sites around the state, from mass vaccination sites like Gillette Stadium to local pharmacies and supermarkets.

Monica Nelson, a retired nurse from Newburyport, told The Boston Globe in an email that she spent two hours trying to get her 75-year-old husband a slot with no luck. She called the rollout a “disaster.”

Syracuse University student Ghael Fobes, on the other hand, logged on just after midnight and was able to make appointments for his grandparents.

State health officials urged patience, warning that it may take several weeks to get an appointment and that as more vaccine supply arrives, additional appointments will become available.

Once vaccinations are completed for residents 75 and older, those who are older than 65 and those with two chronic illnesses or medical conditions will be eligible.

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VACCINES FOR COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is urging Gov. Charlie Baker to boost coronavirus vaccination efforts in the state's communities of color, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

“I write to implore you to act with urgency and put the health and safety of our Black and brown communities at the center of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response and ongoing vaccination deployment plans,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote in a letter to the Republican governor dated Tuesday.

She cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers that show Massachusetts ranks 29th in the nation for vaccine deployment, as well as state Department of Public Health data that show Black and Latino residents make up less than 3% and 4% respectively of those who have been vaccinated so far.

Pressley's district includes Chelsea, a Boston suburb with a significant immigrant population that was the early epicenter of the pandemic in Massachusetts.

Pressley also made several recommendations, including commitment to prioritizing hotspot communities in early phases of vaccine deployment and a public awareness campaign to dispel misinformation about the vaccine and build trust in Black and brown communities.

Baker previously pledged to set aside 20% of the state’s vaccine supply for cities and towns with high infection rates. An email seeking comment was left with his office Wednesday.