Acting Mayor Kim Janey addresses reporters at the Roxbury YMCA. BANNER PHOTO
Acting Mayor Kim Janey says her administration has put vaccination at the center of its strategy to fight the spread of COVID infections in the city.
Speaking at the YMCA of Roxbury last Friday, Janey unveiled a $1.5 million grant program aimed at helping people of color obtain vaccinations.
“Vaccination is at the top of our COVID-19 agenda. The city of Boston is pursuing a citywide approach that is focused on equity,” Janey told reporters, speaking in the gymnasium of the Y. “We know that people of color are more likely to get COVID-19 And if they do, they are more likely to die. That means addressing the needs of the entire city.”
In Massachusetts, Latinos account for only 5% of those vaccinated statewide, although they account for 28% of COVID cases here and 8% of deaths, according to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Blacks account for 6% of those vaccinated, 8% of COVID cases and 7% of deaths.
Janey told reporters the city’s recent efforts have been making a difference, citing the city’s Equity in Vaccine Access Line, a direct phone number and website city residents can use to book vaccination appointments. The number for the line is (617) 635-5555.
“The latest data indicate the Equity in Vaccine Access Line is making an impact,” Janey said. “People of color currently represent 45% of the vaccines that have been distributed in the city of Boston.”
The $1.5 million grant Janey announced will go to nonprofit organizations working to expand access to vaccines by providing services such as transportation and translation for hard-to-reach communities.
Caution amid reopening
While Gov. Charlie Baker has lifted many of the restrictions the state adopted to slow the spread of the virus, the changes, along with what many say is a sense of pandemic fatigue, may be fueling a rise in cases in the state.
After the March lockdown last year, COVID cases plummeted to seven-day averages of 150 in June. After a January spike, the infection rate dropped, but leveled off at a much higher seven-day average of about 1,300 cases before rising again.
In Boston, former Mayor Walsh allowed indoor performance and recreational venues to open at 50% capacity as of March 22. Restaurants, concert halls and movie theaters can accommodate up to 500 people, under the guidelines. Road races, street festivals, parades and fairs will remain closed.
In Boston, groups of young adults and teens have been playing basketball and engaging in outdoor gatherings, often unmasked. In Massachusetts, as is the case across the country, people age 30 and younger account for 50% of the current COVID cases.
In her remarks Friday, Janey urged Boston residents to remain cautious.
“The arrival of spring and the rollout of vaccines bring new hope to our battle against COVID-19,” she said. “We all want to live our best lives. We all want to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, but we must remain vigilant against the virus. The latest COVID-19 data makes clear our fight is far from over.”
Janey also told reporters that vaccinating teachers and school staff would be a priority for her administration.
Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of Health and Human Services, noted that teachers have been receiving priority vaccination slots at the Galvin Community Center in Mattapan and the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury.
“We believe probably close to 60% of K to 12 educators have gotten access,” he said.
Prior to the press conference, Janey visited Martin Luther King Towers, a Boston Housing Authority elderly housing development where she spoke to elders about getting vaccinated. Janey, too, received a vaccination shot at the Roxbury Y.