Letter to the Editor

Mayors, Town Mangers Urge Baker to Give All Adults Vaccine in 20 Hardest-Hit Communities

Dear Editor,

We, the undersigned mayors and municipal managers, respectfully urge Governor Baker immediately to allow all distributors of COVID-19 vaccines in the 20 most vulnerable communities in Massachusetts to offer them to all residents over 18 years of age — or 16 in the case of Pfizer — without any other restrictions related to age or medical condition.

Another strategy would be to make all household members immediately eligible for vaccination when any single member of that household is eligible.

Despite initial challenges, the system set up by the Commonwealth has helped us to achieve one of the highest rates of vaccination in the country. We also appreciate that the Administration has specifically designated 20 cities and towns as being at higher risk of COVID, and deserving of additional resources, communication efforts, and vaccines.

Even with these efforts, we still face challenges achieving an equitable distribution of vaccines. Current estimates indicate 39% of white residents in the Commonwealth have received at least one dose per capita, while only 25% of Black and 18% of Latinx residents have done so.[1]

First dose vaccination rates in the 20 communities designated by the Baker Administration as most vulnerable are running, on average, 15% (for Black residents) and 24% points (for Latinx residents) behind the statewide average for white residents. Of course, we expect that similar trends exist in among low-income populations and populations of color in many of the other cities and towns in the Commonwealth, even beyond the 20 communities designated by the Administration.

Public health data indicates we may be headed into another surge, with higher case rates among younger people (16–39 years old), most of whom are not now eligible for vaccination under state guidelines and who represent a larger percentage of residents in the 20 municipalities.  While younger people have been less likely to suffer serious complications or die from COVID, they are still at risk of serious illness and longer-term consequences.  And they can transmit the disease to unvaccinated individuals.

Once again – as in all previous surges – infection rates are higher in vulnerable urban communities, where residents are poorer, receive lower pay, frequently face more exposure to conditions that lead to illness, and are more likely to be front line workers who are unable to work from home.

One way to counteract these trends would be to press for a faster and higher rate of vaccination in the 20 most vulnerable communities by making all residents immediately eligible for vaccinations if they are over 18 years of age (or 16 for Pfizer). 

Since these communities also contain many inter-generational households and still face relatively high infection rates, another strategy would be to make all household members eligible for vaccination if any single member of the household qualifies.  Getting as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible is imperative to protect our residents.

We recognize that all age groups are expected to be eligible on April 19.  However, we also recognize that on that date, millions of residents from throughout the Commonwealth will become eligible, forcing the more vulnerable residents of high-impact communities to compete for a limited number of appointments even as the supply of vaccines grows.  Giving the lower-income and more vulnerable residents of these 20 cities and towns a head start would help to ensure earlier access and a faster rate of vaccine uptake in communities that have already suffered an unconscionable rate of illness and loss. Even after April 19, it will be important to focus efforts on vaccinating groups at higher risk of infection, including lower-income populations and people of color, not only in the 20 communities, but broadly throughout the Commonwealth.

Already more than 40 states across America have expanded vaccine eligibility to all residents over the age of 16 or those in specific locations.  Our neighboring state of Rhode Island, which continues to implement age restrictions in most of the state, eliminated age restrictions in more vulnerable postal codes weeks ago.  Massachusetts should do the same in the 20 cities and towns the Administration has already designed as the most severely at risk. We feel this would help to accomplish a key Administration goal, which we all share: to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of race, income, or resources, have an equal opportunity to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time.

Robert Sullivan,

Mayor of Brockton

Thomas Ambrosino,

City Manager

of Chelsea

Carlo DeMaria,

Mayor of Everett

Yvonne Spicer,

Mayor of Framingham

James Fiorentini, Mayor of Haverhill

Eileen Donoghue, City Manager, Lowell

Thomas McGee,

Mayor of Lynn

Gary Christenson, Mayor of Malden        

Neil Perry, Town Manager, Randolph

Brian Howard, Mayor of Methuen

Brian Arrigo,

Mayor of Revere

Joseph Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville     

 Marc Draisen,

Executive Director, Metropolitan Area

Planning Council

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