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Governor Baker weighs in on COVID-19 vaccine timing: ‘This shouldn’t be based on a date’

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that it is “incredibly important” that clinical trials of a vaccine against COVID-19 are not rushed and are run with “tried and true” procedures.

Baker’s comments came after reports Wednesday that CDC Director Robert Redfield wrote to governors last week about the urgent need to have vaccine distribution sites running by Nov. 1. The timing immediately led to skepticism among some that the administration of Republican President Donald Trump could be rushing a vaccine, or at least the promise of one, to win political points ahead of the presidential election on Nov. 3.

“This shouldn’t be based on a date,” said Baker, who is a Republican, during a State House news conference Thursday afternoon. “It should be based on a process and a set of protocols that are pretty standard operating procedure.”

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Baker noted that “the clinical trials associated with this vaccine typically involve 30,000 people,” adding, “I have no idea how long those trials are going to take. But those trials need to be able to run completely through their course.”

Baker also said the “big issue” for him “is that these be done right,” and that the process “gives people comfort and confidence that this thing is going to be safe and effective.”

“The last thing we should do . . . is change the way these processes work. I know everybody wants to get there in a hurry, and I understand why,” he said. “But we have a tried and true process for developing these kinds of things, and it needs to be pursued according to the rules and protocols and standards that have always been in place before.”

When Baker was asked point-blank by a reporter if he thought having a vaccine by late October was rushing it, the governor replied, “I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not going to speak to it.”

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Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said that the Department of Public Health has an internal working group to make sure a reliable infrastructure is in place for vaccine distribution.

“We distribute presently about 3.2 million doses of vaccine on an annual basis, so we have a well-established process for distribution of vaccines in the Commonwealth,” she said. “So we have a good platform and infrastructure to build from.”

As for who gets priority in receiving the vaccine once it’s ready, Sudders said the department would also seek input from a group of people outside of government to help “ensure we have an equitable lens in the distribution,” adding that the federal government will also likely have requirements around prioritization.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.


Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss