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Massachusetts halts new coronavirus vaccine doses to Boston-area universities, will still provide second doses

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 2/27/2021 Lisa Kashinsky, Meghan Ottolini
a man standing in front of a building: BOSTON, MA - February 25, 2021: Signage regarding masking up during the COVID-19 pandemic outside of Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald BOSTON, MA - February 25, 2021: Signage regarding masking up during the COVID-19 pandemic outside of Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Boston-area universities that initially received hundreds of coronavirus vaccine doses for their first responders and health care workers are now watching their supplies for other staff and students run dry in Phase 2 as the state prioritizes mass vaccination sites.

Boston University told faculty, staff and students on Friday that it would have to suspend its vaccination program due to lack of supply from the state.

“The state has decided to prioritize mass vaccination centers, among other providers, and has halted distribution of the vaccine to all higher education institutions,” BU said in an email obtained by the Herald. “As a result, we must suspend the university’s vaccination program for those who have not yet had their first shot.”

The university and its occupational health center received 1,600 doses to vaccinate their first responders, health care workers and other employees or students eligible under Phase 1 of the state’s distribution plan, according to state data.

BU said it will still offer second shots for those who already received their first dose on campus. But the university is now encouraging community members eligible under Phase 2 to look elsewhere for the potentially life-saving vaccines.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with this news,” the university wrote. “We had put our vaccination program in place with the aim of immunizing as many BU community members as possible. With the state’s decision, however, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to reach that goal anytime soon.”

BU’s announcement echoes similar statements from hospitals and local boards of health that had their allotments abruptly yanked by the state, but in some cases restored, as the Baker administration continues to pivot in its distribution plan. The state is currently pushing its limited supply of about 139,000 doses per week toward mass vaccination sites, community health centers and regional collaboratives.

“The state should really be thinking about using every possible avenue to deliver the vaccine, especially places like universities that can do it in a very organized manner,” BU infectious diseases specialist Dr. Davidson Hamer said.

After initially receiving 1,800 doses from the state, MIT Medical told members of the school’s community last week that it was “unlikely to receive vaccine in the coming weeks” beyond second doses.

Boston College, which received 400 doses during Phase 1, hasn’t received vaccines in the past three or four weeks due to state supply limitations, a spokesman said.

Lasell University, which initially received 600 doses, said “we are not expecting any more doses from the state for at least the next few weeks.”

Salem State University initially received 500 doses. But Dr. Elisa Castillo said no new doses are coming and the “state has not indicated whether we will receive additional shipments.”

Several schools said they’re ready to continue vaccinating their people — if and when their supplies are restored.

BU sophomore Matthew Swain said that “while it’s upsetting, we’ll still be able to get them. We’ll just have to go to Fenway.”

Some colleges and universities say they’re no longer getting new first doses of coronavirus vaccines from the state after initially receiving shots for employees and students under Phase 1.

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Here’s how many doses those schools received, according to the state:

Salem State University Health Service: 500

Lasell University Health Center: 600

Simmons College Health Center: 200

Merrimack College Hamel Health Center: 100

UMass Lowell Health Services: 100

Babson College: 400

Boston University/Occupational Health Center: 1,600

Northeastern University: 3,625

Boston College University Health Services: 400

University of Massachusetts Boston Health Center: 400

Trustees of Tufts: 100

MIT Medical: 1,800

President Fellows of Harvard College: 800

Rick Sobey contributed to this report.

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