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Baker: State Told Johnson & Johnson Ramping Up Vaccine Production

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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MATTAPAN, Mass. — Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said the commonwealth has been told to expect a "lot more" of the single dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month.
 
In the meantime, he stressed that all vaccines are safe and effective and encouraged residents to get whichever vaccine they can as soon as they are eligible and can make an appointment.
 
"The information on the J&J vaccine in terms of volume is a little up in the air," Baker said Monday morning. "What I'd say is it is likely we will get, for next week, a shipment. That shipment will probably be distributed pretty evenly across what we think of as the vaccinating community across Massachusetts.
 
"The message from the feds is, '[Johnson & Johnson] has made some, and we will distribute those through our own channels and to [states].' 'Through their own channels' means the CVSs and Walgreens, the pharmacy channel that they've got. And then you should expect there will be a bit of a pause as they ramp up production, and you probably won't see significant amounts of additional vaccine until later this month."
 
The pharmaceutical company is expected to ship an initial 3.9 million doses nationwide and state officials last week estimated up to 80,000 could be coming to the Bay State. Massachusetts has been receiving about 130,000 to 140,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna combined per week. 
 
Baker for weeks has been predicting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, once approved, would be a "game-changer" in efforts to vaccinate the population against the novel coronavirus. Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for distribution in the United States.
 
"J&J is a really big company, and they have a ton of manufacturing and production capability," Baker said during his daily COVID-19 briefing. "I don't want to speculate on how fast or how much at this point in time because anything I say at this time would be speculation.
 
"But I would anticipate that by the time we get toward the end of the month of March, we're going to know a lot more about the flight plan for Pfizer, Moderna and J&J and what April, May and June is going to look like. That will tell us a lot about how to think about distribution generally, not just here in Massachusetts but around the country."
 
Baker made his remarks from the sanctuary of Mattapan's Morning Star Baptist Church, where he was joined by officials from Mattapan Health Center, Boston Medical Center and Bishop John M. Borders III, whose church is hosting a vaccination clinic for people in the Boston neighborhood.
 
Baker and Borders both talked about the role that churches do play and can play in reaching people of color who are victims of institutional racism, disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and often hesitant to trust the vaccine.
 
"After people sit in the observation room after they're vaccinated, there have been no side effects, no complaints," Borders said. "I have not seen one person complaining about adverse side effects. So you can trust it.
 
"You can trust this church, you can trust these institutions and you can trust this vaccination."
 
State Rep. Russell Holmes, D-Mattapan, said there is a debate nationwide and in the commonwealth about balancing the need to vaccinate as many people as possible against the need to have equity in the distribution model. Russell said the system can do both.
 
"When the governor talks about structural racism, many folks will still say structural racism doesn't exist," Holmes said. "I know folks get tired of hearing me repeat it, but 400 years -- 250 years of slavery; 100 years of, essentially, apartheid; 55 years since the Civil Rights bills; and quite literally you had the Nixon court, the Reagan court and, now, the Trump court taking away whatever gains we had through the '60s.
 
"For folks who don't understand what that looks like quantifiably, I have to still say that, from a numbers perspective, structural racism in Boston looks like $8 for every Black person in wealth and $247,500 for every average white family. When you put things together like what we're doing here at Morning Star, they're critical. They're critical because the community is going to do more than just vaccinate. We're going to feed, we're going to make sure we get the masks. We're going to do things that are intentional about the fact that we believe structural racism exists."
 
And, Borders said, his church's effort to vaccinate the community dovetails with its mission to serve the faithful.
 
"We have seen scores of people from this congregation alone die of the coronavirus who were unable to have a regular funeral service for their loved ones," Borders said. "But, by this effort, we'll be able to see, very soon, men and women coming back again for public worship and coming back for any other services that our congregation provides."
 
More locally, the Berkshire Vaccination Collaborative has been focused on ensuring those who received their first doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine get their second dose. There are no current appointments for vaccinations but the website will be updated as soon as those become available. 

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Williamstown Finance Committee Reviews Town's Capital Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Finance Committee last week concluded its review of the town's fiscal 2022 spending plan and made plans to vote its recommendations next week.
 
The last major item up for discussion was the capital spending plan for FY22, which represents about 6 percent of town hall spending, or $650,000.
 
That represents a $90,800 increase from the current fiscal year, but as Town Manager Jason Hoch reminded the Fin Common on Wednesday, $650,000 is closer to what the town had been investing in infrastructure before it dialed back that budget last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The largest single item in the capital plan is $203,000 for erosion control along the banks of the Hoosic River near Syndicate Road.
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