The race to vaccinate Massachusetts residents against COVID-19 continues to push forward this week.
With vaccination sites being regularly added to the state’s arsenal for getting doses of COVID-19 vaccines into arms — with frequent bumps along the way — we have a summary, below, of what you should know this week about the vaccination rollout in Massachusetts:
Residents over the age of 65 and those with certain medical conditions are now eligible to get a vaccine
Massachusetts residents between the ages of 65 and 74 and those with two or more medical conditions that put them at an increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 were allowed to begin booking vaccination appointments last Thursday. Read more here about what does and doesn’t count as a qualifying medical condition for the expanded group now eligible for vaccinations.
The state’s new vaccine website was overwhelmed by newly eligible residents rushing to book vaccination appointments on Thursday morning, with the webpage crashing for more than two hours. The failure of the state’s vaxfinder.mass.gov site elicited a storm of frustration and criticism from residents and lawmakers alike, who said the administration should have been more prepared to open vaccination eligibility to nearly 1 million additional residents.
Both state officials and the vendor that manages the vaccine website apologized and offered explanations for the floundering rollout. The issues, they say, have been addressed.
The state’s website to find and book vaccine appointments experienced delays and technical difficulties and the administration sincerely apologizes for the frustration and inconvenience residents experienced over the course of the day. (1/6) pic.twitter.com/7H6MLa2R4B
— Mass.gov (@MassGov) February 19, 2021
Despite the technical problems, the state announced that 60,000 appointments had been booked for this week by Thursday evening, saying that the sites at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium and in Danvers, Dartmouth, Natick, and Springfield were fully booked. More appointments are expected to be made available this week, according to the state.
A state official also told The Boston Globe an effort is underway to prevent individuals from losing their appointment as they fill out the necessary forms to confirm their time slot.
After nearly every member of the all-Democratic congressional delegation signed a letter criticizing the Baker administration’s vaccine appointment process, imploring the governor to set up a preregistration system as other states have done, the Republican governor said last week his team was looking at the possibility. But he also urged the state’s delegation to focus more on pushing President Joe Biden’s administration to “give states three or four weeks of solid, committed visibility” on future vaccine shipments.
Municipalities are unhappy that Baker is diverting vaccine doses to mass vaccination sites, away from local sites
The newly created Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, charged with oversight on the state’s coronavirus response, will hold a hearing Thursday focused on the vaccine rollout. The governor is expected to testify, the Boston Herald reports.
After the vaccine appointment website crashed last week, state Rep. Bill Driscoll, a co-chair of the committee, said the list of questions the committee has about the rollout “gets longer by the day.”
Last Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced his plan to raise awareness around COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy in 20 communities hardest hit by the virus, including Boston, Chelsea, Lowell, Springfield, and Worcester. The plan will focus on promoting the vaccines and reducing barriers facing individuals attempting to get vaccinated, targeting cities and towns “with the greatest COVID-19 case burden, taking into account social determinants of health and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color),” according to the state.
The governor is already facing questions from some state lawmakers about the effort, who say the announced plan leaves many unanswered questions, even after months of public calls to ensure an equitable vaccine rollout and to build trust in communities of color.
The Natick Mall site, run by LabCorp, opens Monday, Feb. 22, and will begin by offering 500 doses a day, eventually increasing that in the following weeks to 3,000 doses daily.
In Dartmouth, the mass vaccination site will open Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Circuit City with Curative operating as the provider. The location will begin by administering 500 doses a day, with the aim of increasing that to more than 2,000 doses daily in the following weeks.
The first large-scale vaccination site in the city of Worcester opened last week at Worcester State University. The site, run out of the school’s Competition Gym in partnership with Saint Vincent’s Hospital, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and will continue through at least the end of June.
The university aims to vaccinate 1,000 per day at the site and, depending on vaccine availability, increase that number to 2,000 per day.
The city’s first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination center, located on campus in our competition gym had its grand opening on Tuesday Feb 16.
— Worcester State (@WorcesterState) February 19, 2021
The state of the vaccination rollout in Massachusetts
The number of people who have been fully vaccinated (as of Feb. 21): 389,087
According to The New York Times vaccine rollout tracker, Massachusetts falls in the bottom half of states based on the percentage of residents who have received both vaccine doses (5.3 percent). But Massachusetts is close to the top 10 based on the percentage of the state population who have received one dose (15 percent). See how Massachusetts compares to other states and U.S. territories here.
General COVID-19 vaccination information to know
Here’s who is currently eligible for booking appointments:
Listed in order of priority:
- Clinical and non-clinical health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care
- Long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities
- First responders
- Congregate care settings
- Home-based health care workers
- Health care workers doing non-COVID-facing care
Listed in order of priority:
- Group 1: Individuals age 75+
- Group 2: Individuals age 65+, individuals with 2+ certain medical conditions, and/or residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing
Frontline and essential workers, including early education and K-12 staff, transit, grocery, utility, and sanitation workers, are up next. See the full list here.
Here’s how to make an appointment:
Search for and book a vaccination slot through the state’s VaxFinder: https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
Or visit: mass.gov/covidvaccine
Those who are 75 or older can connect with the state’s vaccine hotline operator by dialing 2-1-1 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (press 2 for the call center).
According to the state, the mass vaccination locations will post their new appointments on Thursdays when they update their schedules, while smaller locations offer fewer slots and tend to update their schedules daily.