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Fauci: Massachusetts doing ‘really good job’ on coronavirus vaccine rollout

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.Alex Wong/Getty

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease specialist, said Monday that Massachusetts is doing a “really good job” on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout compared to elsewhere in the US.

Fauci made the comments during an interview with WBUR radio.

He was asked to respond to comments earlier in the day from Governor Charlie Baker.

Baker, a Republican, told reporters that “I hope that the feds give us the vaccine that we’ll need to actually make sure that every single seat at every single appointment can get filled. But we can only move as fast as the federal government shifts vaccines to the Commonwealth.”

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Fauci, asked to respond during the WBUR interview and asked if there’s a vaccine supply problem in the US, gave Massachusetts high marks for its relative success with the initial rollout, which Baker has repeatedly called “bumpy.”

“Well, for localities like Boston, and a state like Massachusetts — which has done a really good job in being able to put up a structure to be able to vaccinate — indeed, the supply will not meet the demand,” Fauci told the radio station. “But that’s not uniform throughout the country.”

And, Fauci continued, “I think that’s the reason why you see the discrepancy, where in some places, you have what your governor just said about needing to get more vaccine, because you have slots there to fill and to get people vaccinated. And there are other areas of the country, where you have vaccine lying around and they don’t have the capability of getting it into people’s arms. We’ve got to correct that.”

He said the rollout process should improve in the coming months.

“When you have capabilities like Boston in the state of Massachusetts, as being able to put the vaccines in people’s arms, the discrepancy between supply and demand looks more acute and profound,” Fauci said. “Where in other areas it doesn’t. All that having been said ... as we get into February, March, April, and May, it will ease up. I can tell you that, because there will be much more availability of vaccines than we have right now.”

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Fauci’s assessment of the Commonwealth’s vaccine situation followed a weekend report in The Boston Globe showing Massachusetts ranks in the bottom half of US states in getting injections into the arms of its residents.

Massachusetts trails every other New England state, as well as New York, in the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, according to federal figures. Less than 5.4 percent of Massachusetts residents had been inoculated as of Friday, compared to 8 percent of residents in Connecticut, more than 10 percent in West Virginia, and 11 percent in Alaska.

A Globe review suggests that a combination of technical problems, unexpected rates of resistance by health workers to taking the vaccine, and policy choices — including a decision to start vaccinating nursing home workers and staff a week later than four other New England states — conspired to set Massachusetts back coming out of the gate.

State officials said their vaccine program is on track, noting that they set clear priorities for who goes first: front-line health workers who treat COVID-19 patients, and residents most vulnerable to coronavirus. In comparison, they said, other states have taken “a more open access approach,” that enables them to inject greater numbers but also leaves unvaccinated some who are at higher risk.

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On Monday, Fauci wrapped up his WBUR interview with an encouraging message for residents of Massachusetts, a state loaded with top-flight hospitals and medical talent, as well as biotech specialists working on additional vaccine development.

“My message to the people of Massachusetts, particularly of Boston, is hang in there, because it will improve,” Fauci said. “But it will improve because we adhere to public health measures, and because we get vaccinated.”

The doctor, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and who graduated from Holy Cross in 1962 before taking his medical degree at Cornell, also noted his local ties.

“I have a very special interest,” Fauci said. “I went to school in Massachusetts. My daughter lives in Massachusetts. So, go ahead Massachusetts and do it right.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.