COVID-19 Vaccination Program and Reopening Updates

CDC Expands COVID-19 Booster Recommendations to 16 and 17-year-olds


On December 9, 2021, CDC announced its recommendation that 16 and 17-year-olds receive a booster shot at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer vaccination series. This decision came hours after the FDA authorized the Pfizer booster shot for that age group.


At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents aged 16 and 17


COVID-19 Boosters Available for All Fully-Vaccinated Individuals 16+


MA residents 18+ are eligible to get a COVID-19 booster six months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months after receiving a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.


As of December 10, 2021 MA residents ages 16 and 17 are able to get their Pfizer booster at least 6 months after their initial Pfizer vaccination series.


Massachusetts residents can access booster doses from more than 1,000 locations, with appointments available now for booking across the Commonwealth. CDC recommendations allow for mixing and matching of different COVID-19 booster doses for persons 18+ and eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. The Administration recommends that residents with questions about which booster is right for them should ask their health care provider for advice.


The COVID-19 booster is safe, effective, and free. Individuals do not need an ID or health insurance to access a booster and do not need to show a vaccine card when getting a booster. Additional information on the COVID-booster, including FAQs, can be found at mass.gov/COVID19booster.


How to Get a Booster:


Parents who prefer to have their adolescent vaccinated by their primary care provider should call their provider’s office directly.


Visit the Vaxfinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov for a full list of locations to receive a booster. Residents are able to narrow results to search for locations that are offering boosters. Many locations will be booking appointments out weeks in advance.


For individuals who are unable to use Vaxfinder, or have difficulty accessing the internet, the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line (Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 9AM-2PM) by calling 2-1-1 and following the prompts is available for assistance. The COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in approximately 100 additional languages.


CDC Issues New COVID-19 Self-Testing Guidelines


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a webpage with updated information on when and why to use a COVID-19 self-test. They advise self-testing if you have symptoms or had an exposure to someone with COVID-19 and suggest self-testing immediately before gathering indoors.



CDC Issues Guidance for Upcoming Holidays


On October 15, 2021 the CDC released guidance for celebrating the holidays. It advises that getting vaccinated is the best way to minimize risk to all, but especially those ineligible for vaccines like young children. If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing a well-fitting mask in indoor settings. Additionally, masks are recommended even for fully vaccinated people in communities with substantial to high transmission. If you are sick or have symptoms, get a COVID-19 test and do not host or attend a gathering. If traveling, wear a mask on any mode of public transportation, and consider delaying travel if not vaccinated.



CDC Tightens Testing Requirement for International Travelers


On December 2, 2021 the CDC announced that it is revising the current Global Testing Order to shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States.


Beginning December 6, 2021, all air travelers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, will be required to show a negative pre-departure COVID-19 viral test taken the day before they board their flight to the United States. The CDC continues to recommend that all travelers get a viral test 3-5 days after arrival, and that unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for 7 days after arrival.



COVID-19 Vaccination Reports


The Daily COVID-19 Vaccine Report includes the most currently available information on vaccine doses shipped, the number of vaccine doses administered, including the number of people partially and fully vaccinated, and the percent of total doses administered. Additional data on vaccines are published in the Weekly COVID-19 Vaccination Report and the Weekly COVID-19 Municipality Vaccination Report each Thursday by 5pm.


The Weekly COVID-19 Vaccination Report includes more granular information by geography, demographic factors, and more. The Weekly COVID-19 Municipality Vaccination Data Sets include information on individuals vaccinated for COVID-19 by their zip code and city or town of residence. The data includes age, sex and race/ethnicity characteristics of vaccinated individuals.


The Daily Report is updated each day at 4 PM. Information as of Thursday, December 9, 2021:

Doses shipped to MA providers (MIIS):

6,947,965


Doses shipped to pharmacies directly from the Federal government:

6,820,835


Grand total doses shipped to MA:

13,768,800


Number of people with at least 1 dose of Moderna or Pfizer(MIIS):

5,390,113


Number of people fully vaccinated with Moderna or Pfizer (MIIS):

4,627,444


Number of people fully vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson (MIIS):

331,746


Booster Doses Administered:

1,474,885


Number of people fully vaccinated with existing COVID-19 vaccines:

4,959,190


Grand total doses administered (MIIS):

11,824,188


MIIS: Immunization data from most (but not all) providers in Massachusetts are reported into the Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) through direct messages from electronic health records or direct entry by users. Due to provider reporting of administration data and data processing, data may be available in MIIS 24-48 hours or more after administration. Due to the time needed for inputting shipment data, shipment data may be available in MIIS 24-48 hours or more after shipment. Data are current as of the time of publication and may be subject to change in future publications as additional data are reported.


The Massachusetts Department of Public Health interactive digital dashboard provides data on confirmed and probable case counts, testing, hospitalizations, and deaths related to COVID-19. The dashboard is updated daily by 5 PM.


Beginning August 19, 2021, hospitalization data included in this dashboard includes demographic data reporting on hospitalizations as well as the number of hospitalized patients who are vaccinated.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Data provided by the CDC is updated daily by 8 PM. Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau also sourced.


Information as of Friday, December 10, 2021 :


Percent of MA pop. with at least 1 dose :

87%


Percent of MA pop. fully vaccinated:

72%


Who can get a COVID-19 Vaccine?


Everyone ages 5 years or older is eligible to be vaccinated. People ages 5-17 years can only get the Pfizer vaccine.


A parent or guardian does not need to go with the minor to their vaccination appointment to give consent. If a parent or guardian is not accompanying the minor, they should download and complete a pre-vaccination screening form, available at mass.gov/CDCScreeningForm. The form is available in several languages.


Updated information about COVID-19 vaccinations for people under age 18 is on this website..


How can eligible individuals get the vaccine?


Steps to book an appointment:


Visit https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/


Select a location and schedule an appointment online or see walk-in availability.


Bring your ID and your insurance card to your appointment. (You are not required to have either of these.)


Fill out the self-attestation form, which will need to be presented at your appointment.


The Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line


All residents may call 2-1-1 or (877) 211-6277 and follow the prompts to reach the Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line in order to schedule an appointment. The Line operates Monday to Thursday, 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM, and Friday to Sunday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, and is available in English, Spanish, and about 100 other languages.


Mobile Vaccination Services


Mobile pop-up vaccination clinics are happening in cities and towns across MA - at community centers, auditoriums, parks, and other locations. Dates and locations can be found here.


DPH is offering organizations the option to easily vaccinate groups. Mobile vaccination services are available for employers, schools, community organizations, priority populations, and other groups.


Vaccines Recommended for Student-Athletes


On September 28, 2021, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Board of Directors voted that all student-athletes get vaccinated against COVID-19.


Schools required to resume COVID-19 case reporting


Beginning the week of September 13, schools will be required to resume reporting positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff members. Data will be made available in weekly reports.


From December 2nd through December 8th, school districts, education collaboratives, and special education schools across the State reported a total of 7,984 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Of these cases, 6,879 were students and 1,105 were staff.


Administration Resumes Reporting of Hospital Data


On August 19, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration resumed the reporting of age, gender, race and ethnicity for COVID-19 hospitalizations.


Baker-Polito Administration Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Executive Department Employees


On August 19, 2021, Governor Charlie Baker issued an executive order requiring all Executive Department employees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination on or before October 17, 2021. The policy applies to both employees working in-person and those who are teleworking.


As new CDC guidance regarding booster vaccine doses is issued in the future, Executive Branch employees will also be required to provide proof they have received those doses by a deadline to be established. Employees for whom vaccination is medically contraindicated or who object to vaccination on the grounds of sincerely-held religious reasons may be entitled to an exemption from the requirement to demonstrate vaccination.


Executive Department employees who are not vaccinated or approved for an exemption as of October 17, 2021 will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.



Long Term Care Staff Vaccine Mandate


On August 4, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration announced an effort to protect older adults in Skilled Nursing Facilities (Level I-III). All such Facilities, as well as the two Soldiers’ Homes (collectively “LTC providers”) will be required to ensure all personnel are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A Public Health Order will be issued for non-state operated skilled nursing facilities and emergency regulations will be filed for the two state operated soldiers’ homes.


Personnel includes all individuals employed directly or by contract by the LTC provider. All unvaccinated personnel are to receive a first dose of a two-dose series by September 1, 2021; and be fully vaccinated by October 10, 2021. To ensure compliance, beginning October 10, 2021, the Department of Public Health (DPH) will enforce this mandate for provider-operated Skilled Nursing Homes.


The requirement will provide exemptions for those with medical restrictions or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving vaccination.



Vaccine Requirement for Long-Term Care Providers and Home Care Workers


On September 1, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration announced plans to require COVID-19 vaccination for all staff at rest homes, assisted living residences (ALRs), hospice programs, as well as for home care workers (HCWs) providing in-home, direct care services by October 31, 2021, unless they qualify for a limited exemption because they have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccination or they object to vaccination based on a sincerely held religious belief. The Public Health Council approved the requirement on September 8, 2021.



House Approves Vaccine Mandate


On September 23, 2021, the House voted to require all members and staff who plan to work from the State House to be fully vaccinated. Accommodations will be available for anyone with a medical issue or sincerely held religious belief preventing them from being vaccinated. The vote also declared a COVID-19 state of emergency in the House, which will allow members who do not want to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination to participate remotely. In the coming weeks, the House Working Group on COVID-19 will provide guidance on COVID-19 protocols, as well as the deadline to be vaccinated. The deadline to show proof of vaccination was November 1, and has yielded 98% compliance from staff and 97% compliance from legislators. The Working Group is also expected to implement a mask mandate in all House-controlled spaces.


Oversight Hearing on Kids and COVID-19


On October 22, 2021, the Joint Committees on Public Health, COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, and Education held a joint oversight hearing, which was a follow-up to the oversight hearing we held in July. We heard from members of the Baker administration as well as experts, invited by the Committee Chairs, about the anticipated rollout of vaccines for the new age group, lessons learned from school-based clinic operations and testing in school settings, and projected plans and protocols as related to the new eligibility status for children aged 5 to 11.


CDC Recommends Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11 Years


On November 2, 2021, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that children ages 5-11 be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer pediatric vaccine. Providers may begin vaccinating them as soon as possible. Distribution of the pediatric vaccines has already begun, with plans to scale up to full capacity starting next week. Vaccines will be available at some pediatric healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and more.



Baker-Polito Administration Announces Massachusetts Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccination Plans


On November 4, 2021, The Baker-Polito Administration announced its plans for distributing the Pfizer Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in Massachusetts. More than 500 locations will be offering the vaccine, ranging from retail pharmacies, primary care practices, regional collaboratives, local boards of health, community health centers, hospital systems, state-supported vaccination sites, and mobile clinics. Some appointments are available now for booking, and additional locations and appointments are expected to become available in the coming days. The Administration recommends three ways to find an appointment: (1) calling your primary care provider’s office directly, (2) using the VaxFinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov and (3) calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line at 2-1-1.



Biden Administration Sets Timeline for Vaccine Requirement for Large Businesses


On November 5, 2021, the Biden Administration set a January 4th deadline for the OSHA-enforced workplace vaccine-or-test mandate. All workers at companies with 100 or more employees must be vaccinated by this deadline or may elect to be tested weekly. Additionally, all employees of healthcare facilities and nursing homes participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs must be vaccinated by the same date. They do not have a weekly testing alternative option.


On November 6, 2021, a federal appeals panel temporarily blocked the vaccine mandate for large businesses.


On November 12, 2021, a federal appeals court upheld its stay on the Biden Administrations’ vaccine-or-test mandate. Citing the court’s decision, OSHA announced it is suspending activities related to the mandate.



COVID-19 Vaccination Passport Program


In a WGBH interview on November 29, 2021, Governor Baker stated that he expects a state-sanctioned, voluntary COVID-19 vaccination passport program to be implemented in Massachusetts “soon.” While he did not provide specifics or a timeline for rolling out the system, Governor Baker mentioned that a QR code could be used to show a person’s vaccination status and be made available for others to scan or verify.


Employer Vaccination Program


The Commonwealth’s Employer Vaccination Program offers Massachusetts employers options to easily and conveniently vaccinate their employees.


All detailed information on this program can be found at www.mass.gov/EmployerVaccine . This webpage includes a link to a form that employers should submit to request appointments. There is no financial cost to the employer.


There are two main options for employers:


Option 1: Group appointments at mass vaccination sites

Option 2: Mobile on-site employer vaccination clinic


Homebound Vaccination Program


The Commonwealth worked with local Boards of Health to develop a statewide program that offers in-home vaccinations, including booster vaccines, for individuals who are unable to get to a vaccine location.


Homebound Vaccination Program Central Intake Line:


1-833-983-0485


Monday through Friday


9:00AM to 5:00PM


The Central Intake Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available to support residents in approximately 100 additional languages.


In-home vaccinations are available for anyone who is unable to get to a vaccine location.


Individuals who register for the homebound vaccination program will be contacted within five business days to schedule an appointment. It may take some time to get an appointment, and the quickest way to get vaccinated remains to schedule an appointment at a vaccination site by visiting VaxFinder.mass.gov.


The Homebound Program is using either the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, a safe and effective vaccine that only requires one visit to an individual’s home, or using the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. The program is offering the Pfizer vaccine to individuals 12-17 years old.


Please note, many local Boards of Health are managing their own homebound vaccination programs for their community. The Central Intake Line will help connect any homebound individual from across the Commonwealth with the right resource. will be registered with the State Homebound Vaccine Provider, Commonwealth Care Alliance, or referred to their local Board of Health based on where they live.


COVID-19 Vaccination Safe for Pregnant People


On August 11, 2021, the CDC released new data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people and is recommending all people 12 years of age and older get vaccinated against COVID-19. A CDC analysis of data from the v-safe pregnancy registry assessed vaccination early in pregnancy and did not find an increased risk of miscarriage among nearly 2,500 pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, data from three safety monitoring systems did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies. Combined, these data and the known severe risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy demonstrate that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant people outweigh any known or potential risks.


For Fully Vaccinated People


On July 27, 2021, the CDC updated guidance for fully vaccinated people given new evidence on the rising Delta variant:


Recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Use this resource to determine your county's risk level.


Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.


Recommends that fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.


Recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.


The Department of Public Health updated its online page for travel during COVID-19 to reflect guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume pre-pandemic activities including travel within the United States," the webpage reads. Though masks are no longer broadly required in Massachusetts, they are still mandatory on public and private transportation systems, including ride shares, taxis, ferries, the MBTA, train stations and airports.


For recommendations related to travel, please consult the CDC pages below:


Mask Guidance for K-12 Schools


On August 25, 2021, Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley announced a mask mandate for all public K-12 students older than age 5, educators, staff, and visitors through October 1 to ensure schools fully reopen safely and to provide time for more students and educators to get vaccinated. After October 1, the commissioner’s policy would allow middle and high schools to lift the mask mandate for vaccinated students and staff only if the school meets a certain vaccination rate – at least 80 percent of students and staff in a school building are vaccinated. Unvaccinated students and staff would still be required to wear masks.


The mask mandate includes exceptions for students who cannot wear a mask due to medical conditions or behavioral needs, and would only apply indoors and to children 5 and older. The guidance strongly recommends that students younger than age 5 wear a mask.


On October 26, 2021, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced its decision to extend the school mask mandate through at least January 15, 2022. The Department will continue to work with medical experts and state health officials to evaluate the mask requirement beyond January 15.



Mask Guidance for Indoor Sports:


The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will follow DESE’s guidance in requiring masks for any activity in which student-athletes and coaches are indoors. Masks will remain optional during outdoor activities. For the fall season, indoor sports include volleyball, cheerleading, swimming, and unified basketball.


On November 23, 2021, the MIAA announced that masks will be required for winter indoor sports, including basketball, hockey, cheerleading, and more. DESE will reassess mask guidance on January 15, 2021.


Mask Guidance for Early Education Centers and Programs


On August 30, 2021, the Board of Early Education and Care approved a mask mandate for teachers, staff, and students at daycare centers and after-school programs beginning September 7th. Children aged 5 and older must wear a face mask indoors, and children aged 2-4 who can safely and appropriately wear, remove, and handle face masks should be strongly encouraged, at family discretion, to wear face masks indoors and must be supervised at all times while wearing a face mask. For a complete list of face mask requirements and exceptions, see the Department of Early Education and Care’s 2021-08 Policy Bulletin.



State Mask Guidance:


On July 30, 2021, the Department of Public Health issued a public health advisory that advises all unvaccinated residents to continue to wear masks in indoor settings and when they can’t socially distance themselves. The advisory also recommends that vaccinated residents who are at increased risk from COVID-19, or who live with someone who is at increased risk or unvaccinated, should wear a face-covering indoors (other than in their home).



For Frequently Asked Questions:


The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has a Frequently Asked Questions site that is continually updated as they receive new questions. Access the FAQs here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions








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