Cape Cod legislators continue to push Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. to increase the allocation of COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Cape to help vaccinate its aging population.
In a letter addressed to the governor February 12, more than 100 Cape Cod leaders urged Gov. Baker to take steps to alleviate the supply shortage impacting Barnstable County, which officials say is getting only 975 doses a week.
“We write with urgency and alarm regarding the inadequate supply of COVID-19 vaccine allocated to municipalities within Barnstable County. As elected and appointed officials at the state, municipal and county level, we can tell you that the situation on the ground is untenable and must change,” they wrote. “We simply need the state to allocate vaccine equitably based on demography. Please help us help ourselves.”
Barnstable County has the oldest population in Massachusetts. However, as the state distributes the vaccine prioritizing seniors and at-risk populations, many Cape leaders feel the county is being left behind.
The letter, signed by most of the Cape’s town managers and administrators, select board members and state representatives, urges the governor to establish a vaccination site at Cape Cod Community College as previously discussed with the administration; to increase vaccine doses to Barnstable County; and to deliver shots to a consortium of local boards of health in Barnstable County.
The delegation wrote they are worried because although 11.7 percent of Cape Cod residents received the first dose of the vaccination, it does not capture how many more adults over age 75 are in the communities.
So far, 22,000 doses of vaccine have been provided to Barnstable County, Cape Cod Healthcare, community health centers and two municipalities for eligible people in phase one, including healthcare workers and first responders, and the top tier of phase one, the letter writers said.
But they said there are 27,666 Cape residents age 75 and older and 35,915 between ages 65 and 74.
“We will need 55,000 doses to vaccinate all Cape Codders aged 75 and older, assuming use of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. This is a steep challenge, especially given the commonwealth’s focus on an off-Cape mass vaccination program,” they wrote.
Residents 65 And Older Now Eligible For COVID Vaccine
About 1 million more Massachusetts residents became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign as of Thursday, February 18.
Gov. Baker announced the second step of phase two, which includes residents age 65 and older, those with two or more high-risk medical conditions, and residents and staff of low-income housing or affordable senior housing.
The appointments can be booked at www.mass.gov/covidvaccine, the governor said during a news conference this week, or through the state’s call-in center by dialing 211. Technical issues prohibited people from booking in the morning, but since then they have been fixed.
Details for booking appointments can be found via the COVID-19 Vaccine Finder, which enables residents to search for a vaccination location and view appointment availability before scheduling. The tool can be accessed via the state’s vaccination website at www.mass.gov/COVIDvaccine or directly at https://vaxfinder.mass.gov.
More Vaccines Coming
Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders also said the administration learned Tuesday from the federal government, after weeks of being limited to weekly shipments of 110,000 first doses, that Massachusetts will begin getting 139,000 first doses a week starting this week, with the 31,000 extra doses coming from vaccine maker Pfizer-BioNTech.
COVID-19 Response Task Force
During the Cape Cod COVID-19 Response Task Force conference call Thursday, county officials expressed concern about the governor making the vaccine available to the 65-year-old age group, saying that 1 million more residents are now eligible for the vaccine when there are still many in the 75 years or older category who still need to get vaccinated.
“Opening it up to 65-plus creates a lot more competition on the limited number of vaccines we get,” Sean O’Brien, director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, said. “We have quite a few residents over 75 to get to.”
“The website crashing this morning is proof of that,” he added.
Mr. O’Brien was referring to the crashing of the state site set up to book vaccination appointments. It opened yesterday at 8 AM for the new rollout phase, and many residents were blocked due to technical issues due to a high volume of users.
Representative Sarah K. Peake (D-Provincetown) drew a comparison of trying to get a vaccination appointment to a popular movie about youths fighting to the death until only one remains.
“Constituents write me that they feel like contestants in ‘The Hunger Games’ trying get a vaccination,” she said. “I urge the governor to take our letter and requests seriously. They lack understanding of our demographic. We’ll need fewer vaccines later based on our population demographic.”
By The Numbers
After experiencing the highest numbers in a single month to date in January, Cape Cod is showing an “excellent trend downward,” said Vaira Harik, deputy director of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services, during yesterday’s conference call.
There are 238 new cases in the last week and 18 deaths.
As of Wednesday evening, there were 27 people in the hospital, six of them in intensive care fighting the virus, Ms. Harik said.
“Hospitalizations remain high, but still lower than a month ago,” she said. “The fatality number is much lower than in January, but it is still very sad and concerning.”