Apr 6, 2021
Top COVID-19 News
Amid the pandemic, news is fast-moving – and sometimes confusing. Coverage is here to help. Our new series provides a clear, fact-based digest of the top news for health consumers.
Massachusetts expands early vaccine eligibility
A broader population is eligible to get vaccinated in Massachusetts, under new guidelines from the CDC and the state. Effective April 5, anyone 16 or older with conditions including dementia, Type 1 diabetes, HIV, hypertension, or substance use disorder is eligible, as is anyone who is overweight or obese, over age 55 or employed in certain occupations.
How can I figure out if I’m eligible? You can check to see if you're eligible here. Use this calculator to see if you meet CDC criteria for being overweight. Everyone in the U.S. over 16 will be eligible April 19, per new guidance from the Biden administration.
Expanded vaccine access in Mass.
The state continues to expand vaccination access, with mass vaccination sites giving more shots and mobile sites launching in some of the hardest-hit areas of Massachusetts, including Chelsea, Revere, Boston, Fall River, and New Bedford. The clinics will give about 500 vaccines per day and will be in parks, parking lots, and other easily accessible locations. A new in-home vaccination service also is available to homebound residents.
Where can I get vaccinated? Eligible residents can sign up at more than 200 public vaccination sites here. Also check with your primary care provider to see if they are offering vaccinations. Homebound residents can call 1-833-983-0485 to get information about in-home vaccination. And if you are not yet eligible, you can preregister for mass vaccination sites here. Demand still currently outpaces supply, so appointments may take some time, but manufacturing is ramping up rapidly.
Fully vaccinated individuals can safely travel
People who are fully vaccinated can now safely travel with low risk for COVID-19 transmission, according to new CDC guidance. This means vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested or quarantining. (International travelers should have a negative test before they board a flight back.) Because there is a chance even the fully vaccinated may spread infection, the new guidance specifies that travelers should still wear a mask, socially distance, and practice thorough hand hygiene.
Does this mean I should book a vacation? The CDC still recommends that you don’t take unneeded trips to reduce the chance of transmission to the large majority of currently unvaccinated Americans.
Pfizer adolescent study shows strong results
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been found to be 100% effective in adolescents aged 12-15. The clinical trial of 2,260 adolescents found “very high antibody” responses in the young volunteers, even exceeding the antibody responses in vaccinated adults.
What’s next? Pfizer plans to submit the data to the FDA in the coming weeks for emergency use authorization, with the hope of starting to vaccinate adolescents before the start of the next school year. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are now testing their vaccines on teenagers as well. All participants in the trials will continue to be monitored for long-term protection and safety for two years.
Concern about variants
Along with loosened public health restrictions, highly contagious virus variants are contributing to higher case rates in the U.S. in the past two weeks. These variants have the potential to cause COVID-19 to be more severe, spread more easily between humans, require different treatments, or change the effectiveness of current vaccines.
How can you stay safe? The virus evolves when spread is uncontrolled, so the best way to stop variants is to keep cases down and to immunize quickly as possible. Public health officials are urging the public, particularly the approximately 80% of Americans who are not yet fully vaccinated, to continue to wear masks when in public, to get tested frequently, and take other commonsense precautions.
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