The work to deliver COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of Massachusetts residents as quickly as possible continues this week, racing against the clock as the Northeast sees a concerning rise in coronavirus cases.
The vaccine rollout in the state has seen almost weekly adjustments and developments since it began months ago, with officials providing regular updates to the public on the progress of the battle against COVID-19. Below, what you know about the vaccination campaign in Massachusetts this week.
President Joe Biden opened his first formal news conference last week by pledging the nation will administer 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of his first 100 days in office. The aim doubles the initial goal set by the administration of 100 million doses, which was reached before Biden’s 60th day in office earlier this month.
Massachusetts will get 40,000 additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and launch a homebound vaccination plan
Gov. Charlie Baker announced on March 25 that Massachusetts would get 40,000 additional doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which officials plan to direct toward the state’s new mobile vaccination program for homebound residents. The new initiative will support in-home vaccinations for the estimated 25,000 people in Massachusetts who are unable to leave their homes — due to medical conditions or other circumstances — and can’t get to one of the state’s mass vaccination sites.
The homebound vaccination program launches Monday, March 29. Residents can schedule an appointment for themselves or a loved one that is homebound by calling 1-844-771-1628. The line is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Callers will be asked a series of screening questions to set up the appointment.
Officials announced Friday that FEMA will partner with the Baker administration to expand the state’s new mass vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. With additional doses and staffing, the Back Bay site is slated to ramp up to 7,000 vaccinations a day by Wednesday, March 31.
The change amounts to a sevenfold expansion from the previously expected timeline. In addition, the 6,000 new daily doses are coming directly from the federal government, not from the state’s still-limited weekly allocations, which means the increase at the Hynes won’t come at the expense of dose shipments to providers elsewhere in Massachusetts.
Baker continues to face backlash from public health experts and physicians for the vaccine rollout in Massachusetts, which critics say has failed vulnerable populations and offered a consistent lack of transparency and equity.
The criticism continued as the governor appeared once again before state lawmakers last week, where he (again) defended his handling of the vaccine rollout.
Massachusetts planned to set aside 20 percent of vaccine doses for hard-hit communities. What happened?
Baker’s administration has repeatedly stressed that equity is one of the three main pillars of the state’s vaccine rollout. That’s why the administration planned to set aside 20 percent of the state’s vaccine supply for hard-hit communities beginning in Phase 2 of the three-phase rollout. But some advocates are raising alarms — as the state moves midway through Phase 2 — that it remains unclear when — or if — the state will deliver that pledge. Baker, for his part, says the administration is meeting that commitment already.
Hundreds of Massachusetts State Police and Department of Correction officers have passed up the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Maura Healey thinks that shouldn’t be an option and said during an interview with GBH last week her personal opinion is that the vaccine should be mandatory for the state’s police officers and prison guards. The state’s attorney general said she was particularly concerned about the refusal rates among corrections officers.
“They are in a situation where they’re coming into and out of prisons, and they’ve got a captive population,” Healey said.
The state of the vaccination rollout in Massachusetts
The number of people who have been fully vaccinated (as of Sunday): 1,253,133
According to The New York Times vaccine rollout tracker, Massachusetts continues to rank in the top half of states based on the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated (18 percent). The Bay State is also in the top 10 based on the percentage of the state population who have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines (33 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:
- Individuals age 75+
- Individuals age 60+
- Individuals with 2+ certain medical conditions
- People who live or work in low income and affordable senior housing
- K-12 educators, K-12 school staff, and child care workers
- Certain workers, such as transit, grocery, utility, restaurant, and sanitation workers
- People who are 55 or older (eligible 4/5/2021)
- People with 1 certain medical condition (eligible 4/5/2021)
- General public (eligible 4/19/2021)
Here’s how to make an appointment:
Pre-register for an appointment at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites, visit: mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine
Once you sign up for preregistration, you will receive weekly status updates from the state. When an appointment becomes available, you will be contacted and have 24 hours to accept and book the appointment. If the appointment isn’t selected within 24 hours, you will be added back onto the state’s waiting list.
Search for and book a vaccination slot at one of the other 170 public vaccination sites 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).