I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources. Today the Joint Committee on Public Health, which I co-Chair, and the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management held a joint public informational hearing on COVID-19 variants. Watch a recording of the hearing here.
DPH Directs All Providers to Immediately Pause Administration of J&J Vaccine
In response to today’s FDA and CDC recommendation to pause Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines, as a result of an extremely rare condition reported in 6 individuals nationwide, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health directed all providers to immediately pause administration of this particular vaccine until federal health experts investigate. Read more here.
Based on my conversations with experts in medicine and infectious disease, the really GOOD news is that this pause is a sign that our checks and balances in the vaccination process are working. The pause is to allow for additional analysis. In the U.S., 300,000-600,000 people develop blood clots every year, but the type of blood clotting J&J vaccine recipients have developed is extremely rare. At this time, over 165,000 Johnson & Johnson shots have been injected in MA with no known serious complications as of today. I trust that the CDC and the MA Department of Public Health are doing their due diligence, which continues to inspire confidence in me.
Nationwide and Federal Updates
U.S. Recommends Pausing Usage of J&J Vaccine After Rare Blood Clotting Cases
Federal authorities recommended that states nationwide pause using Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. This recommendation comes as an investigation is being done into six serious cases of clotting problems, one of which was fatal, that were reported among women who received this particular vaccine. Read more here.
COVID is Surging in the Northeast and Upper Midwest
The coronavirus is surging in the Northeast and Upper Midwest of the United States. Experts are uncertain as to what is causing the divide across the nation, since the surge doesn’t correspond to vaccination levels. Officials are also concerned about the more contagious virus variants, especially B.1.1.7. The CDC shared last week that this variant is now the leading source of new COVID infections across the nation. Read more here.
MA Vaccination Updates
Vaccine Eligibility Expanded
As of Monday, April 5, 2021, individuals age 55 and older as well as individuals with one comorbidity are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Eligible conditions include: asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised state, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, type 2 diabetes, HIV, type 1 diabetes, and hypertension. On Monday, April 19, 2021, the general public age 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Preparing for your Vaccination Appointment
Learn about how you can prepare for your vaccination appointment here
Resources for Booking and Getting to Your Appointment
Phone: Call 2-1-1 between 8:30 AM-8:00 PM Monday-Thursday or 8:30 AM-5:00 PM Friday-Sunday and select the prompt for “help scheduling a vaccine appointment.” This multilingual service is for residents who don’t have Internet access or have trouble using the Internet.
Need help? For detailed information about how to make an appointment, including updates about specific health care providers, see the Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services vaccine resources page. You can also visit macovidvaxhelp.com, which is an unofficial site staffed by volunteers for eligible individuals who are unable to book vaccine appointments on their own.
Need a ride?
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is offering free transportation for local adults aged 60+ to COVID-19 vaccination sites in Cambridge and Somerville as well as Fenway Park and CHA Malden. For more information, click here. To register for a ride, call SCES at 617-628-2601 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All MassHealth members or Health Safety Net patients can get free transportation to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. You can request transportation for a scheduled appointment by calling (800) 841-2900. You may find additional information on transportation help here.
The City of Cambridge has published accessibility information for the state’s mass vaccination sites. You can find it here.
Don’t forget to book your second appointment while you’re getting your first dose!
The Cambridge Public Health Department will award six $1,000 mini-grants to support projects promoting youth mental health and wellness in Cambridge. Applications are due by Tuesday, April 20, 2021. For more information and to apply, go to bit.ly/3u3pEWX.
Council on Aging Homebound Vaccination Program
The homebound vaccination program is for people who would not otherwise be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless they receive it in their home. It does not include individuals who are temporarily homebound; and/or able to leave the home with adequate assistance; or those who would prefer to get a vaccine in their home. If you meet the definition for homebound, or know someone who does, please call the Cambridge Council on Aging (CoA) at 617-349-6220. Learn more here.
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know that you are not alone. Here are some great resources:
Where to Give
On Fridays, Cambridge CoHousing will be collecting food either in a paper bag or small box for the Chelsea Food Collaborative. Drop off is between 9 AM and 2:30 PM at the entrance to CoHousing at 175 Richdale Ave, Cambridge, MA. If you don't see someone at the moment you arrive, please leave it just inside the gate where we will have boxes marked "For Chelsea."