What to know about the COVID-19 vaccination effort in Mass. this week

A weekly roundup of vaccination information you need to know.

A woman enters the clinic by signs in multiple languages letting people know that they can get vaccinated there at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts on February 16, 2021. - Chelsea, with a population of close to 40,000 people, is one of the hardest hit cities in the United States by Covid-19 with close to 8,000 infected people and over 200 deaths from the virus.  The community is made up of close to 70 percent Latino or Hispanic people and also retains a large undocumented population.  East Boston Neighborhood Health Center is working with La Colaborativa to vaccinate any person in the community that wants to be vaccinated and is working to get the message out in multiple languages.  Signs are outside the building in Spanish and English.  La Colaborativa is all ready an established institution in the community for helping and empowering immigrants in the city. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman enters La Colaborativa in Chelsea. –JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP via Getty Images

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.

Charlie Baker is under fire for COVID-19 vaccine signup problems after appointment website crashes

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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.

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.

The governor responded to the Mass. delegation’s calls for a vaccine preregistration system

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

Local leaders have voiced frustrations that the Baker administration has moved to direct vaccine doses away from small sites in communities to larger mass vaccination sites, The Boston Globe reports. The local officials told the newspaper the move prevents efforts to protect their most vulnerable residents and comes after the Department of Public Health initially encouraged municipal-run vaccination sites.

New joint committee tasked with oversight of state’s COVID-19 response will hold hearing Thursday

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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.”

Baker launched a plan to ramp up vaccines for 20 of the state’s hardest-hit cities

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.

Mass vaccination sites will open in Natick and Dartmouth this week

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.

A large-scale vaccination site opened at Worcester State University

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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 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:

Phase 1

Listed in order of priority:

Phase 2

Listed in order of priority:

Here’s who will be eligible next:

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.

A map and list of COVID-19 vaccination sites in Massachusetts:


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