Gov. Charlie Baker received a flu shot Thursday from a CVS pharmacy in Roslindale, part of his efforts to get as many Massachusetts residents immunized against influenza while the state still struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As we continue to fight COVID-19, it's critical that we do everything we can to minimize the impact of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This will keep people healthy and help maintain capacity in hospitals and other health care facilities in case there is another surge associated with COVID-19," Baker said after receiving the shot, which he mentioned he had to get "sort of undressed for" in the pharmacy's vaccination area.
Baker said his emphasis on flu shots came after encouragement from the state's health care community who warned that an uptick in coronavirus transmission could lead to health facilities being overtaxed if other respiratory illnesses hit at the same time.
"Having the flu and COVID-19 surge in the Commonwealth at exactly the same time would be an incredibly difficult situation for them to manage their way through," Baker said.
Health Secretary Marylou Sudders said the state saw 55,000 emergency room visits as a result of the flu during the 2019-2020 season, with 6,600 deaths. The state has ordered nearly 1.16 million doses of flu vaccine for this season, according to Sudders.
Baker also defended his administration's policies and how well-prepared school districts were for students returning to school. Baker said the state offered guidance and resources, and maintained a "constant willingness to change and adjust" based on feedback before schools decided to reopen.
"But at the end of the day, that decision here in Massachusetts under state law gets made by the locals. If I could make it, I would, okay? But I do not have the authority to do that," Baker said.
Asked about when long-term and elder care facilities can let residents return to communal spaces and activities, Baker said he expects to make an announcement about nursing homes next week.