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Acceptance Of COVID-19 Vaccine By Baystate Hospital Workers Is Said To Be High

A hypodermic needle and vaccine bottle
WAMC File Photo

    The largest hospital network in western Massachusetts ran through its initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine in just five days. 

    Baystate Health vaccinated about 2,300 of its frontline workers with the initial shipment of the Pfizer vaccine the hospital received last week.

    Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate, said there was very little hesitancy and a lot of celebrating by the health care workers who were among the first to get the vaccine.

   "I think the healthcare workers who have been following this data know this is a highly effective vaccine and even with receiving a single dose they are convinced their chances of getting seriously ill have gone down dramatically," said Keroack.

    More shipments are expected this week of the Pfizer vaccine and the newly authorized vaccine created by Massachusetts-based Moderna.

    Baystate notified about 4,000 of its employees last week that they could line up for a shot. About 8,000 of the hospital’s workers are eligible to get vaccinated in this first phase of the vaccine distribution.

   Keroack said a “few hundred” people eligible to take the vaccine declined for various reasons. Some wanted to check with their doctor first, others were curious to see how the vaccine would affect their coworkers.

   "I expect the great majority of those declinations to come back," said Keroack.  He said he expects in the end only a small number of hospital workers will flatly refuse to be vaccinated.

    The vaccine is becoming available as the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts remains alarmingly high and officials warn that if the December holidays produce a surge on the magnitude of what followed Thanksgiving the state’s whole hospital system could be overwhelmed.

           Although the general public won’t have access to a vaccine for many months, Springfield officials are making plans for the rollout.  Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said a task force of medical experts and community leaders is being formed to convince people to take the vaccine when the time comes.

  "And to help them understand that vaccine hesitancy is something that is very normal, but we want to make available all the information people need to make good decisions," said Caulton-Harris.

    Mayor Domenic Sarno said he plans to “lead by example” when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.

  "I will take that vaccine to show it is safe and sound," Sarno announced at his regular COVID-19 briefing.

   It is unclear when under the state’s plan for prioritizing the distribution of the vaccine Sarno would be eligible. 

   Next week, the state plans to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities.  First responders and public safety officials are scheduled to be vaccinated starting in January.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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