The federal government has indicated it won’t be able to send large quantities of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Massachusetts until the end of the month at the earliest, though the Commonwealth has received an initial shipment of 58,000 doses, Governor Charlie Baker told reporters Wednesday.
Baker made the comments during a briefing in Gloucester following a tour of a local school.
“Massachusetts has been notified by the feds that we’re only scheduled to get one shipment, which we got this week, of 58,000 doses for the month of March,” Baker said. “And that has been distributed primarily to hospitals, health systems, [and] some community health centers. ... And we don’t expect to get any more until the end of March, or the beginning of April. Obviously, that timeline may change. We certainly hope it does.”
Currently, Baker said, the state remains limited in how many doses it can administer, as Massachusetts is still getting only about 150,000 first doses each week. He also stressed that the state to date has received just over 2 million doses of the different vaccines, 1.8 million of which have been administered, for a rate of 88 percent.
That’s tops among states with populations of 5 million or more, he said.
“And we all know how high the demand is for vaccines generally,” Baker said. “We’re doing what we can to speed it up, but we can only go as fast as the federal government supply.”
The governor also defended the state’s vaccine rollout strategy, which has received blistering criticism over equity of access and the difficulty of booking an appointment on the state website.
“We have a number of groups that we believe, based on the guidance we got from the CDC and the work that was done by our panel here in Massachusetts, are very significantly at risk of hospitalization and death associated with COVID,” Baker said, placing emphasis on the word death. “Those folks need to be able to continue to access vaccines at the 170 sites where vaccines are available in Massachusetts.”
He continued, “we have 1.8 million people who are fully vaccinated. So the one shot thing [from the J&J vaccine] makes a big difference. And if there’s a lot more of that supply that shows up, it will make a big difference.”
On a related note, Baker said the state has no current plans to lift the mask mandate requiring people to wear face coverings in public.
“I think the mask mandate has been an important element in both encouraging behavior but also sending the message about the importance of recognizing and understanding that COVID is still very much with us, and people need to take precautions,” Baker said.