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Have you been putting off getting that new bivalent COVID booster? According to state data, the vast majority of residents — even in highly vaccinated Massachusetts — have not exactly rushed to get the new omicron boosters since they became available in September. But now, the state is upping the ante with over 200 walk-in vaccination clinics across the state offering $75 gift cards to anyone who gets their shot through the holiday season. They’re similar to the popular Boston vaccine clinics from this summer that offered $75 as an incentive — but this time it’s much more widespread.
- You can read the full list clinics offering the $75 gift cards to grocery stores and other retailers here. They’re all located in the state’s 20 “Vaccine Equity Initiative” cities, plus 10 other municipalities and three rural areas with the state’s lowest booster rates and highest BIPOC populations, as part of the special Get Boosted program.
- Remember, kids as young as 5 can get the new bivalent boosters — and they’re eligible for the Get Boosted clinics’ $75 gift cards, too. (They just need an accompanying adult if they’re under 18.)
- The numbers: Less than a quarter of Massachusetts’ nearly 5.6 million fully vaccinated residents have gotten a second booster, according to data from the state’s Department of Public Health. And there’s over 2 million boosted residents — about 60% of those who have gotten one booster — who haven’t gotten their second.
- What officials are saying: “These boosters have been proven safe and effective for adults and children,” DPH Commissioner Margaret Cooke told MassLive. “If you have been thinking about getting the vaccine, now is the time.”
- What’s next: Experts don’t expect this winter season to have another stratospheric spike in omicron COVID cases. But with new subvariants taking hold and the return of RSV and the flu, there’s concern that holiday gatherings could accelerate a “tripledemic.”
Scoop: Tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents could be required to replace or upgrade their septic systems in the next five years, due to a newly proposed change to the state’s environmental regulations intended to cut down on nitrogen pollution.
- WBUR’s Barbara Moran reports that the proposed rules would first only take effect on Cape Cod, but later expand to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the South Coast — areas where nitrogen pollution from septic systems is known to damage coastal waters.
- Some local officials say the change would be “enormous.” And yes, replacing or upgrading a septic system to better filter nitrogen can be very expensive for property owners.
- However, the rules do include a big exception: residents wouldn’t be required to upgrade their septic systems if their community presents a watershed permit plan to combat nitrogen pollution.
Dozens of Lowell residents have been evacuated from their homes due to a massive water main break that flooded a downtown neighborhood known as The Acre. City Councilor Paul Ratha Yem tells WBUR that the evacuation included a complex that houses mostly seniors.
- Officials are working to set up an emergency shelter at the Lowell Senior Center. The cause of the break is still being investigated.
Eleven elementary schools in East Boston will significantly expand their music offerings this January, thanks to an anonymously funded, three-year $1.65 million grant through the non-profit EdVestors. WBUR’s Carrie Jung reports it’s a big boost for a community where many students only get about 45 minutes of music education per week.
- According to Jung, the initiative will fund everything from new after-school music programs to workshops with local music colleges and free private music lessons for up to 200 students.
P.S.— Tired of turkey? The legendary chef Jacques Pépin is coming back to WBUR CitySpace tonight to discuss his new book “Art of the Chicken.” While in-person tickets are sold out, you can still grab tickets to watch the event online right here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the state is offering $75 Visa gift cards at COVID vaccine clinics. The $75 gift cards are actually to grocery stores and other local big box stores. We regret the error.