BOSTON (SHNS) – Just before 2:40 p.m. Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker got the first of two doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in his upper right arm and then booked an appointment in three weeks to get his second and final shot.
Baker, 64, had repeatedly said that he would not cut the line to get inoculated against the coronavirus that has dominated his work for the last 13 months. He became eligible for the vaccine on March 22 and said his experience obtaining a vaccine through the state’s preregistration system is proof that “the process is working.”
“I preregistered, was notified last week that I was now eligible to make an appointment, and I did. And so far, I feel great,” the governor said at the Hynes Convention Center after his monitoring period had elapsed. Later during his press conference, he added with a laugh, “Although I gotta tell you, it’s a real shot.”
The governor said that First Lady Lauren Baker had also preregistered to get the vaccine at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites, but was able to score an appointment for herself at a CVS about a week ago.
Baker also used his vaccination and the press conference that followed to highlight the Bay State’s standing among other similarly-sized states when it comes to getting vaccine doses into the arms of residents.
“Over four million doses of vaccine have been administered here in the commonwealth and today we’ll hit the milestone of having over one and a half million people who are fully vaccinated. We’re making significant progress on vaccinating our residents and we continue to lead the nation in administering doses among all 24 states with more than five million people,” he said. “And we continue to be in the top 10 of all states for doses administered.”
The governor said 82 percent of Massachusetts residents 75 or older have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, surpassing the national average of 76 percent, and that 24 percent of Black residents and 16 percent of Hispanic residents have gotten a vaccine doses, both rates more than double the national average.
“We obviously have more work to do. But we’re making significant progress on vaccinating a larger and larger share of our population, which will help us get closer to returning to normal,” the governor said.
Baker said the state’s COVID-19 metrics have been relatively flat in recent days and said there are “clear signs that we’re getting a little closer to returning to normal.”
“Many businesses are starting to reopen, vaccines are letting family see their friends and family that they haven’t been able to see for months, and this week many elementary schools across the commonwealth that have been remote only returned to the classroom,” he said.
Despite those signs, he said, the residents of Massachusetts need to “hold on just a little bit longer.”
“More and more people are getting vaccinated, which is terrific news,” Baker said. “And we all still need to keep our guard up until we can get this virus behind us, once and for all.”
The Department of Public Health did not publish a COVID-19 update on Easter Sunday, and Monday’s report included two days’ worth of data. Massachusetts on Monday added 2,912 new cases and 43 recent deaths to its totals, which stand at a cumulative 607,967 cases and 16,981 fatalities. When counting people with probable COVID-19 cases, the death toll rises to 17,325.
The governor said people should get the vaccine when they become eligible for it and recommended talking with a doctor about any hesitancy or questions about the vaccine. He stressed that you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines, that side effects like a sore arm and fatigue are signs that the vaccine is working, and that the vaccines effectively protect people from the more contagious COVID-19 variants that are being identified more often in Massachusetts.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control counts 58 cases of the P.1 COVID-19 variant, which is thought to be more contagious and able to reinfect those who have already defeated the coronavirus, in Massachusetts — more than any other state in the country aside from Florida, which has identified 64 cases of the variant.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re working as fast as we can to get shots into the arms of everyone who wants to get vaccinated,” Baker said of the variants. “We’ve built up a significant vaccine infrastructure that has the capacity to handle far more doses than what we actually get from the federal government on a weekly basis and we look forward to seeing increasing supply coming from them as we head toward the end of April and the beginning of May.”