U.S. Health Secretary Becerra plans vaccine-focused Merrimack Valley tour

LOWELL, Mass. — The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will visit the Merrimack Valley on Tuesday to tour a family health center and Lowell General Hospital in an effort to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and the work the Biden administration has been doing to reach vulnerable communities.

The Biden administration’s top health official will also take part in a roundtable discussion hosted by UTEC, Inc. in Lowell to discuss the organization’s work to reduce recidivism and support at-risk teens. He will be joined by local and state officials at every stop.

The visit by Becerra to Massachusetts, a state with the second-highest vaccination rate in the county, was announced by the Biden administration and Rep. Lori Trahan, a Westford Democrat from the 3rd Congressional District, who will accompany the secretary on his tour of the area.

Becerra will start his day with a visit to the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, a family health clinic that received funding through the American Rescue Plan Act and was an early participant in the Biden administration’s health center vaccination program.

After the tour, he will take part in a roundtable on health equity with Trahan, Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez, and others. Massachusetts has given a first dose, including the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, to at least 55 percent of Black residents and 53 percent of Hispanic residents, according to the Baker administration. Those total far outpace the national average of 29.8 percent for Black residents and 37.1 percent for Hispanic residents.

Becerra will take part in a similar tour and roundtable on vaccines at Lowell General Hospital, followed by a third event at UTEC in Lowell. Press availabilities will follow each event.

In choosing to visit Massachusetts as the Delta variant spreads rapidly across all parts of the country, Becerra picked a state that is near the top for vaccinations. The state has seen new COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations climb steadily this summer, but is still experiencing far fewer infections and negative outcomes than other states.

With 65 percent of its population fully immunized, Massachusetts has the second-highest vaccination rate in the country, behind only Vermont. The CDC reports that 85.6 percent of adults in Massachusetts have had at least one dose.

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