Massachusetts to begin vaccinating congregate-care facilities

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LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – A new COVID-19 variant has arrived in Massachusetts, just as the state prepares to begin vaccinating people in congregated care settings.

A study from Pfizer that has yet to be peer-reviewed said its vaccine is effective against key mutations found in both the United Kingdom and South Africa.

“Now we’re staying safe. Staying indoors, wearing our masks, doing everything we can to get to that next step,” UMass student, Astrid Paz said.

This is the same guidance experts at John Hopkins University give when it comes to preventing future mutations of the virus.

In the meantime, vaccine distribution in the Commonwealth takes another step. On Monday, people who work and live in congregated care settings will become eligible for the vaccine.

“This is a phenomenal step we’re heading towards especially for people who are under represented and people who don’t have access to healthcare resources,” Paz said.

The distribution accounts for about 94,000 people in the state, including corrections facilities, group homes, residential treatment programs and shelters.

“We’ve seen that these places that don’t have as good access to healthcare have been hit the hardest along with people below the poverty line, they’ve been hit really really hard so I think it makes sense to get it out to those people who need it most,” Nina Keith, another UMass student said.

Congregate care settings like the Hampden County Jail are one of the last stages of Phase 1, but members of the general population told 22News this stage is giving them some hope.

“My aunt’s a nurse and she worked as a front line working during the pandemic and it was really scary to see her go through something like that. So it’s really exciting to see people like her who have already gotten it, right? And for us to be kind of at the end of the line but hopefully we’ll get it by the end of the school year,” Keith said.

The state Department of Public Health has home-based health care workers and non-COVID facing health care workers listed as next on the list for the vaccine. The estimated timeline has the state entering Phase 2 in February.

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