Those days appear to be over.
CBS Boston reported that at a Marlboro Hospital walk-in clinic, organizers were practically begging people to come get a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The story said the Acushnet Fire Department posted a picture on Facebook of its empty walk-in clinic in New Bedford.
The Telegram & Gazette reported that central Massachusetts vaccine providers are similarly seeing reduced demand, and are starting to use outreach tactics to get people into their clinics. According to an employee at UMass Memorial Health, of every 100 people the organization reaches out to, maybe 20 or 30 are interested in getting the shot.
A cursory look at the @vaccinetime Twitter handle Friday morning, which aggregates available appointments, found more than 8,000 appointments being posted for the next few days at Walgreens pharmacies around the state, plus hundreds of appointments available at CVS pharmacies, schools, a library, and Walmart.
It is not surprising that demand is slowing down. According to state statistics, 3.68 million Massachusetts residents have already gotten their first (or only) dose of a COVID vaccine – or about 65 percent of the Massachusetts adult population of 5.6 million. While Massachusetts has generally low rates of vaccine hesitancy, recent polling found that around 11 percent of adult state residents plan not to get a vaccine.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said previously that Massachusetts needs to vaccinate around 4.1 million people to reach herd immunity, the rate at which the virus can no longer spread. That number, however, is speculative since public health experts cannot say with certainty exactly what percentage of the population needs to be inoculatedto reach herd immunity for COVID-19. The growth of more contagious variants may also change that calculation.
But the slowing down of enthusiasm is heightening the importance of reaching out to the remaining unvaccinated residents and making it easier for those who face logistical hurdles to get a shot.
The Boston Globe reported that primary care doctors believe they can help. The doctors say residents who may be hesitant to go to a mass vaccination site or cannot travel to one are used to going to their physicians’ offices, trust their doctors, and may be more likely to get the shot if it is offered by their doctor.
The Baker administration announced Thursday it was distributing $8.8 million in grants to increase awareness of the vaccine in 20 communities that were hard-hit by COVID, part of a $27.4 million initiative announced last month. The money will let community-based organizations and community health centers help residents schedule vaccine appointments. It will also let organizations directly administer vaccines targeted at hard-to-reach populations in places of worship, homeless encampments, substance use treatment facilities, or immigrant assistance centers.
For months, Baker has been telling residents to be patient, that at some point, vaccine supply would exceed demand. That point may now be here.