Vaccine arrival brings hope to Massachusetts

“Hope arrived in a plain white box. It weighed 40 pounds and bore the label ‘heavy.’” So began Boston Globe health writer Felice Freyer’s account of the arrival of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Boston Medical Center on Monday.

Hope was a word used frequently throughout this week as media accounts were replete with feel-good stories about frontline health workers getting vaccinated.

“I didn’t even feel it,” was how a registered nurse at North Shore Medical Center Salem Hospital described the shot to The Salem News. “It didn’t hurt,” a clinical manager in the respiratory care department at UMass Memorial Medical Center told the Telegram & Gazette.

Of course, the problem with these stories is they don’t ask the health care workers how they are feeling hours after the shot, when side effects typically show up. Common side effects of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, and a similar vaccine created by Moderna that appears to be on its way to FDA approval for emergency use, are things like pain around the injection site, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. Side effects are generally worse after the second dose.

Experts are quick to note that these side effects tend not to be serious and are relatively short-lived – they last for maybe a day.  And, public health experts say, it’s far better than getting or spreading the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus.

One doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who participated in Moderna’s clinical trial and spoke to the Globe said he felt “lousy” after the second shot, but, “Had I got infected with COVID, I imagine I’d feel much worse and possibly dying.”

It is also important to note that the arrival of the first vaccine doses does not mean the pandemic is over. Experts have long been saying that months of mask-wearing and social distancing still remain before enough of the public is vaccinated to reach herd immunity, which is the point at which enough people are immune to the virus that it can no longer spread.

Public health experts would do well to be honest about the shots, including their side effects, as they try to convince the public to accept them, which will be necessary to reach herd immunity. One recent Western New England Polling Group poll found that, among Massachusetts residents who are hesitant about taking a vaccine, the most common reason given was lack of trust in the approval process (29 percent), followed by concerns about side effects (26 percent).

A recent poll by the MassINC Polling Group did not ask specifically about side effects but found similarly that residents had real concerns about whether the vaccine has been thoroughly tested and whether it is safe.

One thing that may reassure some people is the reaction of the medical community, those first in line to get the vaccine. These workers are also those who have seen the effects of COVID-19 most closely.

This viral TikTok video of Boston Medical Center staff dancing on the sidewalk in front of the hospital about sums it up. So does the Boston Globe’s story about the online system set up by Mass General Brigham through which health care workers could make appointments to get a vaccine. It crashed due to high traffic.

To further reassure Americans, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, got vaccinated publicly Friday morning.





Don’t expect much change if Robert DeLeo steps down as speaker of the Massachusetts House. Backers of his top deputy, Rep. Ronald Mariano of Quincy, say he has the votes to win and little would change if he takes over.

53 percent of Massachusetts communities are now considered high risk for COVID-19 as cities and towns blow through the state’s benchmarks.

Attorney General Maura Healey signs on to an anti-monopoly lawsuit against Google, one week after targeting Facebook.

Massachusetts is no longer the most energy efficient state.

Opinion: With the Trump administration about to give way to Joe Biden, Thomas A. Barnico taps into the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne to reflect on the spoils system.




Christian Wade of the North of Boston Media Group looks at the far-reaching powers that a proposed civilian-led police oversight board would have under the Legislature’s police reform bill. (Eagle-Tribune)

Sen. Walter Timilty tests positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. (MassLive)


Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who has announced that he won’t seek reelection next year, jumps on the third-rail of Boston’s winter olympics — the race to place a broken lawn chair, milk crate, or random piece of detritus on the street to claim a parking space — and says the practice must end. (Boston Globe

Brockton will partner with Bridgewater State University and  Boston Medical Center to address opioid use and reduce overdose deaths by using a $1.3 million federal grant. (The Enterprise)


The Mass General Brigham website handling employee sign-ups for a COVID-19 vaccine crashed under the weight of a surge of filings. (Boston Globe)  

Attorney General Maura Healey reaches a $10 million settlement with a Lawrence home health care firm that she alleges defrauded the state of Medicaid payments. (Boston Globe

Dry ice — which is key to the transport of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine — is suddenly a hot commodity. (Boston Globe)

MassLive analyzes COVID-19 data and finds that approximately one in 610 Massachusetts residents died of COVID-19. 


President-elect Joe Biden says Rep. Deb Haaland is his pick to be secretary of interior. She would be the first Native American cabinet secretary. (NPR) The Cape Cod Times writes the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe could have a powerful new ally in Haaland as it continues a fight to keep its land-in-trust status.

White House aides reportedly talked President Trump out of calling for a much larger stimulus payment — as much as $2,000 — for every American in the economic relief package being negotiated. (Washington Post)

More than 3,600 Americans died Wednesday of COVID-19, the highest number since the pandemic began. (NPR) Vice President Mike Pence gets a COVID-19 vaccine on live TV. (New York Times


Five unsuccessful Massachusetts candidates who challenged the results of the state election have withdrawn their request for an injunction after a judge expressed skepticism about it. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld zigzags on the doings in the Massachusetts House, first suggesting a “fierce battle” could be on between “far left progressives” and moderates for the speaker’s post, but then seeming to suggest that’s unlikely. 


Biogen agrees to pay $22 million to settle kickback allegations. (Associated Press)

Home Depot will pay a $20.8 million fine for lead paint violations. (Associated Press)


Immigrants played a key role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines.


Schools reported over 1,000 cases of COVID-19 in the last week. (MassLive)


Attorney General Maura Healey joins a lawsuit suing the Trump administration over rollbacks of the federal Clean Water Act. (MassLive)


Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins questions whether the investigation into the drug lab scandal looked closely enough at one of Amy Dookhan’s colleagues. (WBUR)

A Marblehead police officer resigns after he is accused of carving a swastika into a fellow officer’s car. (Eagle-Tribune)