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Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at a CVS in Roslindale after getting a flu shot.

Baker: Getting a Flu Shot Shows Support for Health Care Workers

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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ROSLINDALE, Mass. — Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday urged Massachusetts residents to get vaccinated for seasonal influenza, and talked about why he trusts the process that will lead to a COVID-19 vaccine — however long that process takes.
Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders visited a CVS pharmacy to receive their flu shots and encourage their fellow Bay Staters to follow suit.
The governor said it is a matter of doing the right thing by the medical professionals who sacrificed to keep Massachusetts safe at the height of the pandemic in March and April.
"I would just say to all of those folks in Massachusetts who admire, respect and appreciate the heroic work that was done by so many people in our health care community last spring, that for them and for yourselves, you should go out and get a flu vaccine this year," Baker said. "So that you and they can feel confident that as they deal with respiratory issues this fall and the potential of a second [COVID-19] surge, more and more people in Massachusetts will have protected themselves from having the flu pile on to a potential second surge associated with COVID."
Baker said it was the health-care community that told his administration how important the flu vaccine would be in fall 2020.
"About a month ago, many of those same health-care workers started talking to folks on our team about what it would mean to have the flu land at exactly the same time as a second surge of COVID-19," he said. "The point they made to us at that time was from a diagnostic point of view, from a care delivery point of view, from a capacity point of view, having the flu and COVID-19 surge in the commonwealth at exactly the same time would be an incredibly difficult situation for them to manage their way through.
"They urged us to step up our game — which is already pretty good, relative to most of the states around the country — with flu vaccines."
That is why the Department of Public Health procured 28 percent more doses of the seasonal flu vaccine than it does in a typical year, Sudders said. And that is why the Baker administration mandated that Massachusetts become the first state in the country to require flu vaccines for students from kindergarten through college.
"I know some people are troubled by the fact that, given the authority under state law, we mandated that kids and college students get a vaccination this year," Baker said. "But I have to come back to the message that came from the community that really put themselves on the line for the people here in Massachusetts at the end of last winter and through the spring, which is our health-care community here. Everything we can do to ensure people are vaccinated for the flu makes their ability to do what they need to do for people here in Massachusetts through the flu season and the potential of a second surge to be done as well as it possibly can be."
While the seven-day average for the statewide positive COVID-19 test rate continues to be around 0.8 percent, Baker continued to stress vigilance with the face-covering, social-distancing and hygiene efforts that helped flatten the curve in the spring as the state looks toward a possible resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the fall and winter.
"By getting a flu shot this fall ... and taking other proactive measures to improve overall health and immunity, individuals can protect themselves against seasonal flu, contribute to the overall health of the community and minimize the impact on health care resources," said Dr. David Fairchild, the chief medical officer for CVS' MinuteClinic.
Baker was asked about the mixed messages the public is hearing about the timeline for a possible COVID-19 vaccine and concerns that politicization of vaccine search could undermine confidence in its safety and efficacy.
He said he trusts the major pharmaceutical companies working on a vaccine to stand by their commitment to follow proper safety protocols and not rush to release a product.
"I think one of the most important elements to come up during the debate about the timing and the efficacy of a vaccine is the fact that all of the companies that are working on developing a COVID vaccine signed an agreement, jointly, that says we're not going to do this unless there are clinical trials, and the results of those trials show that a vaccine or several vaccines are, in fact, safe and effective," Baker said.
"Those companies are more than sending a message casually. That's a big sign. I've never seen that happen before. That's a really big statement about the fact that they get the fact that this needs to be something that is properly processed, properly reviewed, properly reviewed. They're not going anywhere until that stuff happens."

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Williams-Led Research Team Awarded $1.6M Grant

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Ron Bassar, assistant professor of biology at Williams College, has been awarded a  grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 
The three-year, $1.6 million dollar grant will support research aimed at understanding how temporal variation in ecological and evolutionary processes allow similar species to coexist. 
The project, titled "The Evolution of Fluctuation-dependent Species Coexistence," integrates theoretical and empirical research in four experimental communities of Trinidadian guppies and killifish on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.
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