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Grading Massachusetts on COVID-19 vaccination

How the state is faring with the vaccine rollout, compared with the rest of the nation, as a weekly report card.

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April 13, 2021 update:

By most measures, the state’s vaccination rollout remains ahead of the rest of the nation. Massachusetts is using most of the COVID-19 vaccine doses it receives, and a greater percentage of its adult population has been vaccinated than in all but a handful of states. On those measures, the Commonwealth’s relative standing among states has been mostly unchanged for weeks. Over the last week, though, there has been some movement in the one measure where the state has lagged: the death rate. Relative to other states, Massachusetts is approaching the middle of the pack in terms of COVID-19 deaths. The movement hasn’t been enough to change the state’s grade in the vaccine rollout scorecard developed by the Globe editorial board and Harvard’s Belfer Center, which has been a B since late February, but it’s an encouraging sign.


April 6, 2021 update:

The state’s grade remains the same in the vaccine rollout scorecard developed by the Globe and the Belfer Center at Harvard, which evaluates the state’s performance in comparison to other states. None of the basic trends that factor into the grade have changed: the Commonwealth is still doing very well at distributing the vaccine, and is on pace to inoculate its population faster than most of the country. But it also continues to lag on deaths per capita, one of the four metrics the Globe uses to calculate the overall grade. In fact, the death rate in Massachusetts is one of the highest in the country, ahead of only California, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

March 30, 2021 update:

Another week, another B. Massachusetts is excelling on most aspects of its vaccine rollout, according to the latest report card from the Globe editorial board and the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School. The Commonwealth is using its federal allocation of vaccines efficiently, and it’s in the top 10 among states for per capita shots given. But that hasn’t yet translated into lower death rates compared to other states, one of the four metrics used to calculate the overall grade.


March 23, 2021 update:

Once again Massachusetts gets a B on the vaccination rollout scorecard developed by the Globe and the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School — and once again the Commonwealth has company. Fourteen other states had the same score. Only three states — Maine, New Mexico, and North Dakota earned an A. Meanwhile, four states got an F: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The reasons for Massachusetts’ score are unchanged: while the state has excelled at using up its vaccine doses in comparison to other states, and is in the top tier of vaccines per capita, the state’s recent death rate remains stubbornly high compared to other parts of the country.

March 16, 2021 update

The Commonwealth’s grades continue to improve on the vaccination rollout scorecard developed by the Belfer Center and the Globe editorial board. Massachusetts is a top performer in the per-capita vaccination rate, and also has used a greater percentage of the vaccine doses available to it than all but three states. It’s also on track to finish vaccinating the eligible population before all but four states. Achieving an A in this scoring system, though, is difficult: currently only three states, Minnesota, New Mexico, and North Dakota, score the top grade. The still-high death rate in Massachusetts would have to fall for the Commonwealth to rise to an A.


March 9, 2021 update:

Massachusetts now ranks among the nation’s top performers on key metrics of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, including vaccinations per capita, the percentage of available doses used, and time remaining to complete vaccination. But those improvements have yet to translate into a reduced death toll relative to other states. That’s not necessarily surprising. Deaths are a lagging indicator that reflect infection rates weeks ago, and it will likely take time before vaccinations drive down fatalities. But for now, the state remains at a B in the grading system devised by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the Globe editorial board — a grade that’s not likely to change much until the death rate in Massachusetts improves relative to other states.

March 2, 2021 update

Although the state’s letter grade remains a B in this week’s scorecard, there are continued signs of improvement in the Massachusetts vaccine rollout relative to other states. The state has cracked the top 10 in terms of percentage of adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and is on track to finish inoculating the adult population sooner than most states. So why isn’t the grade an A? Ultimately, the goal of the vaccination rollout is to stop people from dying, and the grading system set up by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the Globe editorial board also factors in recent death rates. Unfortunately, the state’s death rate still ranks in the bottom half of states.


February 23, 2021 update:

Massachusetts showed more improvement in the weekly vaccination report card compiled by the Globe editorial board and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, moving up from a C to a B. The grade is based on how the state is doing compared to other states. The Commonwealth showed a particularly marked improvement in estimated time to finish vaccinating eligible residents, and now ranks as one of the nation’s top performers on that measure.

While the pace of vaccinations has increased, questions have been raised about whether speed has come at the expense of a more intentional and equitable distribution of doses. In the weeks ahead, how the state balances the need to quickly distribute vaccines in order to reach herd immunity versus the imperative to do so in a fair and medically sound way will likely remain an important discussion.

February 16, 2021 update:

Massachusetts had a rocky start to its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, a fact well documented by the Globe and leading public health experts. On Feb. 9, Graham Allison and Hugo Yen of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School gave the state an ‘F’ grade for its rollout, based on its ranking among the 50 states on key metrics, including vaccines distributed as a share of the adult population and as a share of the doses available to be delivered in the state. The Globe editorial board then began collaborating with the Belfer Center to provide a report card updated weekly on the Commonwealth’s progress and ranking among states. Our mutual goal is to encourage Governor Charlie Baker and state leaders to step up their game, adopt the best practices of top-performing states, and protect residents of Massachusetts from COVID-19 as quickly as possible.


We adapted the Belfer grading system to focus on four key indicators: the three portrayed in the graphic, as well as the death rate per capita over the previous month. The three indicators in the graphic are: the number of adults who have received at least one dose of vaccine relative to the state’s total adult population approved for both major vaccines (which is those 18 and over), the overall vaccinations used as a share of the doses the federal government sent to the state since December, and the estimated time left to give at least one dose to the adult population, given the current rate and progress to date, averaged over the previous 14 days. In each instance, we are evaluating Massachusetts’s progress relative to other states, and it’s important to note the figures we use may differ from other data sources on states’ vaccination per capita. We are relying on the CDC’s collection of data from each of the 50 states and calculating percentages only in terms of those approved for both vaccines, that is those 18 and over, rather than the total population. As of Feb. 16, we are using 7-day averages for states’ indicators in terms of vaccination per capita and percentage of doses of available vaccine used to vaccinate residents. Daily ranks can be misleading because of lags in reporting among states, delays caused by weather, and other sources of variability.

We’ll update this report card on a weekly basis based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We hope to see Massachusetts’ grade improve so that getting a vaccine here is as easy as it is in the best-performing states in the nation.

(Please note that this is not intended to be a real-time data source on vaccination, but rather an accountability tool as described above. See these charts for a snapshot in time of how Massachusetts is doing on vaccine distribution on a variety of indicators that are updated frequently as data become available.)

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.