Will people get a second COVID-19 vaccine? 

A NEW POLL shows most Massachusetts residents are comfortable with eventually getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The results are good news, as health experts keep pointing out that even a vaccine with 95 percent effectiveness is only as good as its take-up rate by the population.

But it might be good to hold off on taking those COVID-now-vanquished victory laps.

That’s because while it may be heartening to learn that most in the state are willing to get a shot, it doesn’t answer an equally crucial follow-up question: Will they get a second one? 

As with many vaccines, the two COVID-19 immunizations nearing approval — from Pfizer and Moderna — both require two injections, several weeks apart. Based on experience with other vaccines, there are grounds for worrying about whether people will follow through and get the second shot. 

Studies in the US and United Kingdom on the hepatitis B vaccine, which also requires two doses, roughly a month apart, show that about 50 percent of people getting an initial dose fail to show up for the second one within a year. 

Vox reporter Dylan Scott says results are even worse for the HPV vaccine, recommended for adolescent girls to protect against cancers caused by the human papillomavirus. 

One added concern with COVID-19 vaccines is that, unlike hepatitis B vaccines, they can produce side effects, making some public health experts worried that unpleasant experience with an initial dose may keep people from rushing back for the second one. 

The best antidote for that behavior is probably just more public information telling people what they can expect from a vaccine — and urging them not to let any side effects dissuade them from getting the crucial second dose. 

A front-page Boston Globe story yesterday focused on a Boston ophthalmologist, Jorge Arroyo, who volunteered for the Moderna vaccine trial. He reported suffering aches and chills, lasting for about a day, after the second dose he received. (The trials were placed-controlled, so Arroyo doesn’t know whether he actually received the vaccine, but presumes he did.) 

Some people have mild symptoms following a flu shot, and the new vaccine against shingles, approved in 2017 and given in two doses, can cause an even stronger reaction. 

The side effects are, in a sense, not a bug but a feature of vaccines: They are a signal that the body is responding and beginning to produce antibodies. But that doesn’t eliminate the public health challenge.

Johnson & Johnson is working on a single-dose COVID vaccine. When it comes to the current two-dose drugs, it does appear that half a loaf is better than none: The Pfizer vaccine appears to be about 50 percent effective after the initial dose. (The full two-dose administration of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appears to be about 95 percent effective in preventing COVID.) 

Having lots of people only take the first dose, however, will not get us to the level of widespread protection needed to achieve “herd immunity.”

The biggest reason for hope that COVID-19 vaccine take-up rates will be far higher than those seen with other immunizations is the fact that they are attacking a deadly global pandemic that has shaken life as we know in a way that no health crisis has in more than 100 years. 

Still, Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, told Scott there is plenty of reason for concern. 

“While I recognize the situation now is different and the rates of completion will almost certainly be much higher, these prior studies highlight that the logistical barriers with a two-dose vaccine are enormous,” he said.   

Looking ahead, then, expect public health campaigns that don’t simply ask, “Did you get your vaccine,” but ask, “Did you get your two vaccines?”

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Amid rising COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations, Gov. Charlie Baker takes the state back a step in its reopening plan. The move comes a day after mayors and city managers urged more aggressive action by the administration.

A new poll on Massachusetts attitudes toward a COVID-19 vaccine signals the adoption of a new outward-facing strategy by the Boston Museum of Science.

Boys and Girls Clubs across Massachusetts have become remote learning centers for students.

Opinion: As the state sets a priority hierarchy for the COVID-19 vaccine, Paul Hattis says don’t forget home care and home health workers…. Drawing on his experience on the ranked-choice voting campaign (which failed), Evan Falchuck says lies and disinformation are becoming commonplace in American politics.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

The Boston City Council will consider a zoning ordinance change today that would require the city’s development agency to weigh how proposals would affect housing displacement and segregation. (Boston Globe

With many restaurants and other businesses closed or open less, they are using less water. And since commercial operations pay higher water rates, the Framingham water and sewer departments are running a $2.5 million deficit. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Lynn City Council approves a nearly $6.7 million budget increase that will drive up property tax bills, but refuses to provide any funding for a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. (Daily Item)

The Amherst City Council unanimously passes a resolution acknowledging the need to pay reparations to black residents. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

A South Yarmouth official who sits on the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee and Yarmouth Housing Authority has been accused of putting a racist post on his Facebook page. (Cape Cod Times)

The Beverly City Council is set to pick a replacement to fill an open council seat, and one candidate removed his name from consideration saying the council should instead pick a candidate who would be Beverly’s first black councilor. (The Salem News)

Agawam Mayor William Sapelli tests positive for COVID-19. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

ICU beds are nearing capacity in places around the country as the virus surge continues. (New York Times

An outbreak that likely began in late October at Sippican Healthcare in Marion has seen 127 residents and staff members test positive for COVID-19. (Standard-Times) Five more COVID-19 deaths are reported at Hillcrest Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pittsfield, bringing the total to 29. (Berkshire Eagle)

Officials in Western Mass. and on Cape Cod said they need more state help with testing availability. (Boston Herald) Big disparities, often related to income or the wealth of a community, exist in who can get tested easily and receive results in a timely manner. (Boston Globe

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Transition moves: President-elect Joe Biden plans to name Rep. Marcia Fudge as housing secretary and Tom Vilsack to run the Department of Agriculture. (NPR) Some Democrats are expressing discomfort with the fact that Biden’s defense secretary pick, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, will need a waiver to serve because it’s been less than seven years since he was a uniformed officer. (Washington Post

GBH speaks with Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed about the legal limits of the president’s pardoning power.

Florida officials accuse a former employee of the Department of Health of hacking into the agency’s email system, but she says she just used her old access code to send an email to colleagues. The e-employee, Rebekah Jones, was fired after accusing superiors of pressuring her to change the way she prepared a COVID-19 dashboard. (Miami Herald) A Republican serving on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s judicial nominating commission resigns after reviewing the search warrant authorities used to search Jones’s home. (Tampa Bay Times)

US Reps. Richard Neal and Joe Kennedy propose changes to Soldiers’ Home safety standards nationwide in a new bill prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

US Supreme Court rejects a Republican bid to reverse the Pennsylvania election results. (NPR)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The redevelopers of the Greendale Mall in Worcester say the pandemic upended their plans for a retail/restaurant/entertainment complex. They now want to use the space for a warehouse and distribution center – possibly run by Amazon. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

Whether COVID is easily spread in schools remains a contentious point of debate. (Boston Globe)

The Braintree School Committee approves a plan to relax the 6-foot distance between students to 3 feet in an effort to get them to have more school time. (Patriot Ledger)

ARTS/CULTURE

Temples and Jewish organizations in Easton and Mansfield are finding new ways to celebrate Hanukkah during a pandemic. (Wicked Local) 

TRANSPORTATION

Boston area drivers clocked speeds more than 50 percent higher from April to July, on much emptier roads, than they did during the same period last year, according to a new study. (Boston Herald)  

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The MBTA is buying at least 35 new electric-powered buses, but they won’t lead to much reduction in emissions as they simply replace the T’s existing small fleet of electric buses. (Boston Globe

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The virtual hearing of an accused murderer is abruptly halted because the man participating in the hearing from jail wanted a private conversation with his attorney, but was not satisfied with the level of privacy he would have with a correction officer in the room and his attorney participating via video. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Springfield City Council approves a $6.5 million settlement payment to Mark Schand, who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit. (MassLive)

MEDIA

Karen Andreas, the publisher of several North of Boston newspapers including the Salem News, Gloucester Times, Eagle-Tribune and others, left her position Tuesday, according to a short notice published on the papers’ websites that gave no further details. (The Salem News)