UPDATE: the Baker-Polito Administration announced May 17 that the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June and all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.
The Commonwealth’s face covering order will also be rescinded starting May 29, except for certain settings, such as schools, mass transport, and medical and congregate care facilities. For more details and specific updates click here to read Baker’s May 17 press release.
By Debra Roberts, Contributing Writer
REGION – Many parents are seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel after learning that their 12- to 15-year-old children are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, as of May 12.
Several parents in the region have already shuttled their teens and pre-teens to the nearest vaccination sites shortly following the announcement.
CDC and FDA make announcements
The green light for this age group came from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
The CDC’s May 12 recommendation came soon after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced May 10 that it had expanded its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID vaccine for those over age 12. Pfizer is currently the only vaccine manufacturer that is approved for use in the 12-15 age group.
Local vaccine sites ready, kids and parents relieved
Immediately following the CDC announcement, local health agents and school superintendents reached out to the public regarding the expanded age eligibility, directing parents to the nearest regional mass vaccine sites as well as the state’s vaccine booking website Vaxfinder.Mass.gov. The sites were ready to administer vaccines to the younger age group the day after the CDC announcement.
Northborough residents Savannah Staples, 15, and Lauren Staunton, 12, both got their vaccines on May 13.
“I’m so happy I got the vaccine! One step closer to a safer environment,” said Staples, who went to the UMass Marlborough Hospital clinic at the Courtyard Marriott in Marlborough.
Staunton got her shot at the DoubleTree Hotel regional clinic in Westborough.
“We are so relieved to return to some level of normalcy–vacations, fun plans with friends, sports without masks. This feels like a huge step in getting our lives back,” said her mother Amy.
Summer fun becoming a reality
After 14 months of dealing with varying levels of restrictions, local parents are feeling like a fun summer is possible.
Southborough resident Brian Butterfield, who was able to get his 13-year-old son Gavin a May 14 appointment at a Walgreens in Worcester, expressed joy about being able to go on a vacation this summer after having to cancel last summer’s plans.
Twelve-year-old Patrick Reine of Shrewsbury, who was also vaccinated May 14, said he is looking forward to spending time in the Cape with his grandparents and going on a trip to New Hampshire with friends this summer.
Higher vaccination rates + lower case counts = less restrictions
As vaccine uptake stats rise and case counts lower, the CDC has continued to loosen its recommended restrictions.
On May 13 the agency announced that a mask is no longer necessary for those who are fully vaccinated (which means two weeks after the second vaccine).
Nevertheless, individual states have chosen different approaches that are either more or less restrictive than CDC guidelines. Gov. Baker did not immediately lift Massachusetts’ mask requirement following that CDC announcement. As of May 14, though, he said an update was forthcoming.
The new @CDCgov guidance is great news. We will be updating our reopening plans early next week.
Massachusetts is on track to vaccinate more than 4 million residents soon. Please stay safe while we prepare next steps to return to our new normal.
— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) May 14, 2021
Massachusetts vaccine access now better than initial rollout
Baker has been both praised and criticized for his handling of the coronavirus, reopening, and most recently the vaccine rollout.
In early March, many had disagreed with his focus on large-scale vaccination sites like Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium.
On March 8, Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant had expressed his frustration with the lack of doses available at the local level. At that time getting a vaccine was akin to scoring concert tickets, as online appointments often filled in less than a minute of being posted.
However, Massachusetts now leads the country as one of the top vaccine uptake states, according to COVIDactnow.org. The Commonwealth (as of May 16) is one of just three states that have administered first doses of the vaccine to over 60 percent of the population, compared to the US rate of 47.1 percent.
Baker had announced, the week of May 3, his goal of getting 4.1 million Massachusetts residents vaccinated by early June with a new phase of vaccine efforts that included allocation to many more local sites and the ability to get a walk-in appointment.
In President Biden’s virtual May 11 call with a select group of US governors regarding vaccine rollout, he told Baker, “You’re doing a hell of a job.”