As Massachusetts COVID-19 infection rates continue to fall, Gov. Charlie Baker is reaching out to those residents holding out from getting the vaccines responsible for slowing the virus and allowing society to mostly reopen.
Massachusetts saw a seven-day average positive test rate of just 0.68% Tuesday after hitting nearly 9% this past winter, according to the Department of Public Health. There are now fewer than 6,000 active cases of the virus reported in Massachusetts, down from nearly 25,000 cases at the beginning of May.
"Our goal remains to give everybody who wants a shot an access to it. And at this point, it's easier than ever to get a vaccine," Baker said, adding that there are now over 900 locations statewide offering free vaccines, many without requiring appointments.
To that end, Baker was in Chelsea, a city hit hard by the virus, to roll out a new mobile vaccination program in the parking lots of several Market Basket stores. Baker said residents of Chelsea, Fall River, Lynn and Revere will receive text messages beginning Thursday about the vaccine vans’ operating hours Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week and next week.
"These Market Basket mobile clinics will be held to make sure people have a chance to take advantage of a vaccine in their backyard," Baker said.
Baker said the state needs to push to make vaccines "available anywhere and everywhere we can," especially in cities and towns hit hardest by the pandemic where transmission rates may still be high compared to the rest of the state.
"It's a big part of what the mobile clinics and the pop up clinics are about. It's a big part of what the programming that we're going to continue to do in those 20 most disproportionately hit communities will be about," Baker said.
The Market Basket parking lot vaccine vans will join other community vaccination and incentive programs, like the family clinic that operated at the Museum of Science in Boston Memorial Day weekend, free Dunkin products at the Hynes Convention Center clinic and free admission to Worcester Red Sox games for fans vaccinated at the new stadium.
Baker attributes the success fighting the virus to the widespread adoption of vaccines. With over 7.8 million doses of vaccine delivered into Massachusetts arms, over 3.6 million residents have achieved full vaccination through either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, bringing the fully vaccinated population up to 53.7% of the state. Over 66% of residents have received at least one vaccine shot and the state maintains an extremely high rate of second dose followup appointments.
Asked why some residents may still be hesitant to get the shots, Baker said many people from hard-hit communities that actually contracted the disease may feel they don't need the vaccine because of natural immunity.
"One of the things we've tried to sell to people is that while there's certainly some immunity that comes with having gotten the virus, you get a bigger and more important, sort of longer-lasting benefit from actually getting vaccinated," Baker said.
COVID-19 infection rates are also down nationally. The New York Times reported that the seven-day average for the United States was down to 17,189 new cases May 31, down from over 70,000 new cases just six weeks ago.