McGovern: ‘More vaccines are coming’

  • U.S. Rep. James McGovern speaks at the University of Massachusetts vaccination site Thursday morning. COURTESY UMASS NEWS OFFICE

  • U.S. Rep. James McGovern is presented an “It’s Weird, but it Works” T-shirt by University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy at the UMass vaccination site Thursday morning. COURTESY UMASS NEWS OFFICE

  • U.S. Rep. James McGovern holds an “It’s Weird, but it Works” T-shirt at the University of Massachusetts vaccination site Thursday morning. COURTESY UMASS NEWS OFFICE


  • U.S. Rep. James McGovern, right, and University of Massachusetts Public Health Director Ann Becker speak to a worker in the auditorium where people wait 15 minutes after receiving their Moderna shots at the UMass vaccination site Thursday morning. COURTESY UMASS NEWS OFFICE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/26/2021 9:46:39 AM

AMHERST — At the end of U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern’s brief tour of the COVID-19 vaccine clinic in the Campus Center at the University of Massachusetts Thursday morning, a woman approached him to offer gratitude for getting inoculated.

That sentiment of relief, McGovern said, also came from several other people as he went from room to room alongside Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy to observe how the Moderna vaccine is being disseminated to the public, finishing at the auditorium where people wait 15 minutes after getting vaccinated,

“I’ve never been to a place where people get a shot and are so happy,” McGovern said.

The congressman’s visit was an opportunity for Subbaswamy, public health director Ann Becker and others to tout the vaccine distribution, with nursing students getting real-life experience as 650 to 700 people per day are getting vaccinated. Thus far, approximately 15,000 people have vaccinated at the center since it opened over the winter. 

For McGovern, it was also a chance to discuss how the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden will ensure vaccinations continue ramping up, at the same time that it primes the economy and helps get people back to employment.

The bill includes $20 billion to facilitate the production and delivery of vaccines to states’ mass vaccination locations, mobile vaccination centers and clinics like the UMass site.

“This is not an island in this community — it’s very much a part of this community,” McGovern said.

While the state’s local legislative delegation has concerns that western Massachusetts, in particular Hampshire County, is not getting its fair share of vaccines, and McGovern acknowledged the “bumpy start,” he said access is improving. 

“The American Rescue Plan means more vaccines are coming  and the availability of vaccines should no longer be a problem,” McGovern said.

He pointed to his octogenarian mother, who lives in Worcester and struggled to make an initial appointment. She was finally able to get vaccinated. McGovern said he understands that there can be disparities in access depending on where one lives.

“My hope is that’s no longer an issue, and if it is there will be a lot of yelling and screaming, because there’s no excuse for that,” McGovern said.

He said everyone should get vaccinated when they are able to and that it represents the light at the end of the tunnel and the crushing of the virus.

Subbaswamy said the virus relief package will benefit UMass, which plans a tuition freeze made possible by the federal support. “We’re truly grateful for the relief being felt across the country, including at UMass-Amherst,” Subbaswamy said.

McGovern downplayed the fact that the package got little Republican support on Capitol Hill, even though he argues that GOP mayors and governors support the spending. 

“The American Rescue Plan was bipartisan in every of the part of the country, except Congress,” he said.

He said the American Rescue Plan should be seen as just the beginning of efforts to bring the United States back, noting that he will be supporting an infrastructure bill that will make investments in roads and bridges, school buildings and broadband technology. He cautioned that these projects will likely have to be done in ways that are green and for the long-term health of the planet, thus meaning there could again be limited buy-in from congressional Republicans.

Referencing the recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, McGovern said he will be supporting gun control measures when they come forward, including universal background checks for gun buyers.  “For whatever reason, it’s become a partisan issue,” McGovern said.

Because McGovern commented on the T-shirts reading “It’s weird but it works” that staff and workers at the Public Health Promotion Center wear, whether at the vaccine clinic, the testing site at the Mullins Center, or with the contact tracing and isolation programs, Subbaswamy presented McGovern with one of the shirts.

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