January 29, 2020 (updated February 1st)
Today marks the start of Phase 2 vaccinations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the blog post that follows, we will review the criteria of both Phase 1 vaccinations (still ongoing) and Phase 2 vaccinations (which begin today for people aged 75 and up).
In addition, Rep. Connolly is actively pushing Gov. Baker and his Administration to address several concerns with the rollout — particularly with regards to the broken website, the lack of a call center, and the need to ensure equitable access and distribution of the vaccine. This blog post concludes with some of the key points of this ongoing advocacy.
Phase 1 Eligibility Updates
All residents who fall in Phase 1 of the MA COVID-19 vaccine distribution timeline are currently being vaccinated as of last week which includes:
- COVID and non-COVID facing health care workers
- Residents and staff of long term care facilities
- First responders
- Staff and residents of congregate settings, such as shelters and prisons
- Home-based health care workers
If you are eligible for a Phase 1 vaccine, please visit mass.gov/CovidVaccineMap to view vaccine locations, including mass vaccination sites, sign-up and eligibility information. Sites will continue to be added with appointments released on a rolling basis. If you are interested in tracking the State’s progress, you can view the state vaccination dashboard which includes a variety of data on doses administered.
Phase 2 Priority Group Updates
The Administration announced updates to Phase 2 of the distribution plan, which will begin February 1st for the first priority group. Individuals 75 and older will now be the first priority group in Phase 2.
Consistent with CDC guidance, individuals 65 and older and individuals with 2 or more comorbidities will now be the second priority group. Later this month, individuals age 65 or older and individuals with 2 or more comorbidities will be eligible to get the vaccine. The exact date will depend on the vaccine supply from the federal government and the uptake and demand for vaccine appointments.
Along with the addition of individuals age 65 and older into part 2 of Phase 2, the Commonwealth updated the listing to no longer specifically list Public and Private low income and affordable senior housing as its own category, as all individuals over the age of 65 will be eligible to receive vaccine by part 2 of Phase 2 regardless of where they live.
The order of Phase 2 will now be:
- Individuals 75+
- Individuals 65+ or with 2+ comorbidities
- Early education and K-12 workers, transit, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers, and
- Individuals with one comorbidity.
The Administration will announce further updates on timing for other priority groups as the Commonwealth gets more information on vaccine shipments from the federal government. To learn more about the eligible groups, visit mass.gov/COVIDvaccine.
How to Get a Phase 2 Vaccine
Individuals with questions about how to get a vaccine should follow these steps:
- Visit gov/COVIDvaccine to find your phase and priority group
- If you are eligible: use gov/COVIDVaccineMap to find a vaccine clinic near you
- Make an appointment online and fill out the attestation form
Vaccination Site Expansion
The COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with health care providers, local officials, pharmacies and others to set up additional COVID-19 vaccination sites across the Commonwealth, with a focus on accessibility and geographic equity.
As of this week, Massachusetts plans to have 103 publicly available vaccination sites. Between these sites and other vaccination clinic sites (e.g. congregate care, health systems), the Commonwealth currently has the capacity to administer 242,000 doses of vaccine per week. This capacity is significantly more than the 173,175 first and second doses that the Commonwealth expects to receive from the federal government this week.
By mid-February, the Administration expects there will be 165 publicly available vaccination sites. Between these sites and other vaccination clinic sites (e.g., congregate care, health systems) the Commonwealth will have capacity to administer 305,000 vaccinations per week. This capacity is significantly more capacity than the 189,640 doses that the Commonwealth expects to receive from the federal government that week.
The Commonwealth is planning to set up the capacity to administer more doses than we are currently receiving from the federal government. If Massachusetts continues to get the same number of doses from the federal government that the state is getting now, there could be empty seats at vaccine sites.
In addition to the mass vaccination sites, the Administration is establishing public vaccination sites at a variety of different locations in every region of the Commonwealth. Public vaccination sites listed on the map include places like pharmacies, community clinics, and other providers and organizations that have experience administering vaccines efficiently and safely. This week, 44 new public vaccination sites will open. These include new pharmacy and retail locations such as Big Y, Wegmans, Price Chopper, Retail Business Services at Hannaford and Stop and Shop Pharmacies, and CVS Health.
While many sites across the Commonwealth are open to all eligible individuals, some sites will be operated by local communities specifically for the residents in their community or the residents in their region. This week, 11 new restricted vaccination sites will open.
Areas for Improvement and the Way Forward
In consultation with Public Health and community organizing experts Rep. Connolly is raising a number of concerns and is advocating to the Administration and House leadership for changes to the rollout.
- We need to prioritize equity when locating vaccination sites to ensure communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, namely poorer communities and communities of color, have the most robust access to recovery and vaccination programs
- Money is needed for trusted messengers’ outreach for impacted communities to deal with vaccine hesitancy due to racism in the medical system
- The vaccine dashboard needs an overhaul, there are no benchmarks for what success looks like
- A central website will be important for phases 2 and beyond
- While Massachusetts does not control the vaccine supply chain there are several outreach and panning steps to ensure the best outcomes
- Rep. Connolly is also aware of problems with Phase 2 individuals having difficulties finding an available site and the lack of appointments and will be on a call with House leadership and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to raise these and other concerns and advocate for improvements to the rollout
If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine rollout don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing [email protected] or call (617) 722-2060.