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Get Your Vaccine, And A $25 Gift Card, On Your Next Trip To Market Basket

Need to pick up a loaf of bread and some milk at the store? Maybe some steaks to throw on the grill this weekend? Why not get a COVID-19 shot at the same time, and save on groceries in the process.

Gov. Charlie Baker visited the Market Basket in Chelsea on Wednesday to announce a new partnership with the grocery chain that will see vaccine clinics set up in the parking lots of five stores over the next two weeks as the administration continues to try new ways to reach unvaccinated residents.

The governor has also inquired with Treasurer Deb Goldberg and the Lottery about what it might take to set up a vaccine lottery in Massachusetts, as some other states like Ohio and California have done, according to Treasury officials. And the administration has set up employer vaccination programs, school clinics and expanded its homebound vaccination program to reach about 15,000 resident who can't travel to any of the hundreds of vaccine sites around the state.

"As we get close to that goal of vaccinating over 4 million residents with two shots, we've been ramping up targeted community outreach efforts to reach the remaining residents who still remain unvaccinated," Baker said.

The collaboration with Market Basket starts Thursday and will make vaccines available through Saturday at pop-up clinics in the parking lots of stores in Chelsea, Fall River, Lawrence, Lynn and Revere.

The mobile clinics will be back at the same stores from June 10 through June 12, and anyone who gets a shot at one of these clinics will also receive a $25 Market Basket gift card.

"We know these are convenient community locations. They're very heavily traveled, as anybody who's ever been to one knows. And we encourage all residents to come down and get their vaccine while they're doing their shopping," Baker said.

The state over the weekend lifted all business capacity limits and mask requirements for vaccinated residents, but Baker said his administration is continuing to look for ways to reach people who have yet to get a vaccine, especially in hard-hit communities like the five targeted with this latest promotion.

Fall River and Lawrence have among the lowest vaccination rates in the state, according to Department of Public Health data.

While 79 percent of adult residents and almost two-thirds of all residents statewide have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, just 45 percent of the population in Lawrence and Fall River has received at least one dose, and only 33 percent in Lawrence and 37 percent in Fall River are fully vaccinated.

Springfield has the lowest vaccinate rate with just 41 percent of its population having received at least one dose, while in Chelsea 65 percent have at at least one shot and 48 percent are fully vaccinated.

The state plans to send a mass notification to residents of the five cities that are part of the Market Basket promotion next week encouraging them to take advantage. Massachusetts has fully vaccinated almost 3.7 million people and more than 4.4 million residents have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our goal remains to give everybody who wants a shot, an access to it. And at this point it's easier than ever to get a vaccine," Baker said.

The governor said that despite polling that has shown Massachusetts to have among the lowest levels of vaccine hesitancy in the country, there are a variety of reasons people living here, particularly in communities of color, have not received a shot.

In addition to those who survived COVID-19 and think they have natural immunity, Baker said other reasons for not getting the shot include young people who think the threat to their own health is minimal and the lack of full authorization from federal health officials for any of the shots.

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were all approved for emergency use on a provisional basis based on efficacy and safety trials.

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"An actual full authorization of the vaccine would make a big difference for a bunch of people who've chosen so far not to get vaccinated, and some people simply are concerned about the fact that nobody does know, really, the answers to any of the so-called long-term questions associated with vaccines of this kind because they are new and they were developed relatively quickly," Baker said.

Baker said his answer to those concerned about the vaccine is that over the past five months as more and more people have been vaccinated the state has experienced a decline in people getting sick, hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum at the Heller School at Brandeis University plans to host a discussion about vaccine hesitancy in Massachusetts and strategies to attain an "optimum level of vaccinated residents, with particular attention to additional outreach in the Black and Latino communities, among conservative Republicans and those living in more rural areas of the state."

The latest DPH data show that while 60 percent of white residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, only 43 percent of Black residents and 41 percent of Hispanics have a similar vaccination status, while 61.5 percent of Asians have gotten at least one dose.

Dr. Paul Biddinger, a Massachusetts General Hospital disaster medicine specialist who has advised the administration on COVID-19, has said achieving so-called herd immunity in Massachusetts is "probably not" going to happen, but that the goal should be to "minimize the consequences" through vaccines and make the virus something more comparable to the common cold or an "ordinary infection."

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will take part in Thursday's event along with Anna Maria Siega-Riz, the dean and a professor in the departments of nutrition and
biostatistics and epidemiology at UMass Amherst's School of Public Health and Health Sciences.

Siega-Riz will present on what she's learned through research about why unvaccinated people in different regions of the state are hesitant to get the shot. The speech will be followed by a panel discussion featuring doctors, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel and Tom Mountain, the vice-chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party who came down with COVID-19 himself last year after attending a Hanukkah celebration at the White House.

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