With early shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine being delivered to health agencies across Massachusetts, the state is moving towards its goal of vaccinating 1.5 million people by early March.
But the long-awaited rollout did not come soon enough for Foxboro’s highest-ranking municipal official.
Town Manager William Keegan on Tuesday confirmed that both he and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus, saying that both are experiencing mild symptoms while recovering at home.
“We are both quarantining and following all the rules we can,” said Keegan, who participated from home during Tuesday night’s selectman’s meeting. “So far, so good.”
Keegan told board members he expected to continue discharging his official duties from home so far as is practicable.
Keegan also reported that Foxboro, with 128 confirmed cases, has now been officially designated a “red zone” community, the most acute level in the state’s four-tier ranking system.
According to the state’s most recent figures, released on Dec. 29, Foxboro reported 128 positive tests over the prior 14 days for a positivity rate of 5 percent. A total of 352,558 cases had been confirmed statewide as of Dec. 30, according to public health department figures, with 12,076 COVID-related deaths.
“It’s interesting to note that we’ve lasted this long,” he said. “I think people did a really good job of trying to follow the rules as best they could.”
Meanwhile, Fire Chief Michael Kelleher said that local officials anticipate receiving the vaccine this week, and will begin administering it to first responders — police, firefighters, EMTs and regional dispatch personnel — almost immediately under the state’s Phase 1 distribution plan.
First responders are the third highest priority vaccine group in Massachusetts, after front-line health care workers and the staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
Kelleher characterized the procurement process as “a collaborative effort,” explaining that in order to qualify for the vaccine, applicants need to serve a minimum of 200 first responders. To meet that standard, Kelleher said that Foxboro leveraged prior experience in securing flu vaccine to spearhead a joint application with the towns of Easton, Norton, Mansfield, Norfolk and Wrentham.
“That’s why we’re the hub in the area as the distribution point,” he told selectmen.
Kelleher said that Foxboro and surrounding towns will be receiving doses of the Moderna vaccine, which consists of an initial priming dose followed by a booster shot after 28 days.
Drug trials have shown the Moderna vaccine to be 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
“We’re going to start distributing the vaccine Monday to all the area communities,” he said. “And we’re going to try and get that done as expeditiously as possible.”
Kelleher also said that Gillette Stadium — along with Fenway Park and the Big E Fairgrounds in Springfield — is being considered as a mass vaccination site. Under the state’s distribution plan, those qualifying as first responders would be eligible for the vaccine followed, later this spring, by the general public.
“The governor’s office and Executive Office of Public Health are really eager to get the mass vaccination sites up and running,” he said.
Phase 2 of the rollout, set to begin in February, will focus on people with two or more conditions — such as asthma and diabetes — that complicate COVID-19, followed by essential workers in day-care centers, schools, transportation, supermarkets and public health.