The recent authorization of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine booster shots pushed up Massachusetts’ total vaccination numbers, while other coronavirus vaccinations continued at the same slow and steady pace they’ve maintained since early July.
The state is a national leader in vaccinations against COVID-19 and some encouraging signs have emerged in the data, but winter is approaching and the highly contagious Delta variant remains a threat. Experts have renewed calls for everyone to get the shots, which are highly effective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death from the virus.
The chart below shows how the state’s vaccination campaign has fared. The seven-day average of daily vaccinations peaked at over 90,000 in mid-April as people scrambled to get the much-desired jabs. Demand then waned until about early July, when the number of shots administered each day stabilized, with seven-day averages running between 7,000 and 10,000 a day until the recent spike caused by the Pfizer booster shots
The state first posted booster numbers last Wednesday (Sept. 29), reporting a whopping 86,751 boosters during the first several days they had been authorized. Here’s a closer look at how the boosters affected the numbers.
The non-booster shot numbers include people who were getting their first shot of the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot vaccines, people who were getting their second shots, and people who were getting single shots of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine.
Dr. Cassandra Pierre, an infectious disease physician who is the associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, said the pace of coronavirus vaccinations needs to pick up, but it’s not an easy process to convert holdouts.
“I really think at this point it’s a one-on-one conversation, whether it’s with a health care provider, a trusted adviser, or a friend or a family member, or someone in their social network,” she said. “There really needs to be a tailored approach to individuals and their individual concerns.”
“This is a conversation for some people that you have over and over again, and hopefully, over time, they will feel comfortable” getting their shots, she said.
She encouraged people to try to persuade their family members and friends to get vaccinated. Some people just need information. “Not everyone has all the answers to their questions so I think there is still room there,” she said. “It’s still not the case that all hope is lost.”
She said she hoped the vaccination numbers would shoot up if a vaccine is approved for children 5 to 11, a group that is estimated to number about 515,000 in Massachusetts. More than 5.1 million of the state’s approximately 7 million residents have already gotten at least one shot.
Another key to getting more people vaccinated is ensuring that people busy with child care, parent care, and jobs have easy access to the shots - through on-site clinics at their workplaces or weekend popup clinics in busy commercial areas, she said.
While some people on the fence might be encouraged by recent improvements in coronavirus numbers, she said, it’s important that they know that the fall will likely bring an “upswing” in the pandemic, though she said it was likely to be a small one.
In the future, the pandemic may wane, with spikes occurring from time to timeh. But for the unvaccinated and those with underlying conditions, she said, it will always be “a concerning and potentially fatal infection.”
A spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services said in a statement, “As boosters make up a greater proportion of daily vaccinations, the Commonwealth will continue to make getting the vaccine as easy as possible, as it is the best way for residents to protect themselves and their families.”
The statement also touted the state’s vaccination successes, saying it had “helped keep Massachusetts’ hospitalization rate the lowest in the country,”
Governor Charlie Baker’s administration also said efforts continue to get people vaccinated through the multi-lingual “Trust the Facts, Get the Vax” public awareness campaign; mobile vaccination units; over 400 back-to-school clinics; and an in-home vaccination program.