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BPHC Encourages Vaccination As Respiratory Virus Cases And Hospitalizations Rise

Recent data shows low vaccination rates ahead of the holiday season and new year.

Recent data analyzed by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) shows low vaccination rates and an increase in cases of respiratory viral illness in Boston. BPHC recommends people protect themselves and their communities from getting sick, especially as they travel and gather with loved ones. 

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), twice as many people have been hospitalized with the flu or COVID-19 in Boston compared to October.1 BPHC also measures virus levels in wastewater in Boston to track transmission of infection and has noted significant increases in the amount of COVID-19, Flu, and RSV. Compared to two weeks ago, the amount of COVID-19 in wastewater across the city of Boston is 23% higher, the flu virus is 23% higher, and RSV is 34% higher.  

Staying up to date on vaccines for respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19, flu and RSV is an important strategy to reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization. Using DPH data, BPHC found only 15.7% of people in Boston have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine. The data also show only 33.8% of people in Boston have received a flu vaccine this season.2 

“Vaccination is the best way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19, flu and RSV, and it is not too late to protect yourself this season,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “We encourage residents to take advantage of opportunities for free walk-in COVID-19 vaccination and testing as well as flu shots.” 

To make it easier for people to get vaccinated ahead of the holidays, BPHC is holding a vaccine event at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury on Friday and Saturday, December 22 and 23. With a winter wonderland theme to kick off the holidays, the vaccine event will offer free COVID-19 and flu immunizations, giveaways, face painting, treats, and an opportunity to meet Santa. (See flyer below + translations.) For RSV vaccination, people should reach out to their healthcare provider to determine eligibility. 

Standing COVID-19 and flu vaccine clinics remain at the Bruce C. Bolling Building and Boston City Hall: 

  • Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building – 2300 Washington St., Roxbury 
    • Open Thursdays through Saturdays from 12 - 6 pm. 
    • Holiday Hours: 
    • Friday 12/22, 12 - 7 pm
    • Saturday 12/23, 12 - 6 pm 
    • Monday 12/25 - CLOSED 
    • Monday 1/1 - CLOSED 
  • Boston City Hall – 1 City Hall Square, Room 115 

    • Open Mondays from 7 am - 1 pm and Wednesdays from 12 - 5 pm. 

    • Holiday Hours: 

    • Monday 12/25 - CLOSED 

    • Monday 1/1 - CLOSED 

Follow the recommended respiratory virus safety steps to reduce your risk: 

  • Stay home when sick.  

  • Consider wearing a mask: 

    • If you must leave the house while sick. 

    • If you are going to be in crowded outdoor spaces. 

    • And/or, if you are at a high risk of severe illness. 

  • Have COVID-19 rapid testing kits available at home to test if you have symptoms of COVID-19. 

    • Visit walk-in and by-appointment testing sites throughout the City.  

    • Seek treatment from a trusted healthcare provider if you test positive for COVID-19 or flu and are at a high risk for severe disease.  

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  

  • Regularly disinfect and clean high touch surfaces.  

Older adults, adults aged 60 and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant people, and people with chronic medical conditions are among those at higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death.  

BPHC has several resources to help people stay healthy ahead of the holidays, including COVID-19 test kits and health education materials in 12 languages. Visit to learn more.

1 Over the past 30 days there have been 43.3 new adult COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 in Boston. This is a slight increase compared to the month of October 2023 when we had 38.4 new hospitalizations per 100,000. There have been 73.6 influenza hospitalizations per 100,000 in Boston. This is a large increase compared to the month of October when we had 17.8 influenza hospitalizations per 100,000.  

2 Based on DPH data, the current COVID-19 vaccination rate for Boston residents is 15.6% from 7/2/2023 to 12/9/2023. The flu vaccination rate for Boston residents is 33.8%.








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