Massachusetts residents age 65 and up can get vaccine shots

BOSTON (AP) — Individuals age 65 and older can now begin booking appointments in Massachusetts for the COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials said Wednesday.
People with two or more serious medical conditions, including asthma, can also start booking appointments. Both groups can start receiving vaccine shots beginning Thursday.
The expansion means that an additional nearly 1 million Massachusetts residents are newly eligible for vaccine shots.
With high demand for appointments and limited vaccine supply, it could take more than a month for all eligible individuals to get an appointment unless federal supply significantly increases, state health officials said.
Massachusetts has been receiving approximately 110,000 first doses per week from the federal government.
The state has created a COVID-19 vaccine finder website to help residents locate and book appointments.
Besides asthma, other serious medical conditions include: cancer; COPD; Down Syndrome; heart conditions like heart failure and coronary artery disease; immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant; obesity; pregnancy; sickle cell disease; smoking; and type 2 diabetes.
Gov. Charlie Baker said the state is relying on individuals to be upfront about their health conditions.
“It is based on an honor system," the Republican said at a Statehouse press conference. “The overwhelming majority of people try to be honest about this.”
Baker also said the decision to add asthma to the list of medical conditions was meant to address what he described as long standing environmental and economic justice issues with communities of color disproportionately effected by asthma in part because of decisions made long ago.
“It’s a legitimate issue and we view it as much as an equity issue as a medical issue.” Baker said. “This asthma issue need to be dealt with now.”
Individuals who can’t to book an appointment by using the internet can call 211 and follow the prompts for vaccine appointments.
There are currently more than 170 vaccination locations across the Commonwealth.
State lawmakers are planning to hold the first in what they say will be a series of oversight hearings next week on the state’s vaccination plan.
Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said lawmakers “have heard the frustration and anger of people across Massachusetts about the constantly changing and confusing vaccination roll out plan.”
“It is essential that we get a greater understanding of the Baker administration’s plans to improve our vaccination rates, especially for those communities and populations hardest hit,” Spilka said in a press release Wednesday.
Democratic House Speaker Ron Mariano said in the same release that the vaccine rollout “has been marked by both logistical and communications shortcomings.”
The Feb. 25 hearing will be held by the newly formed Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management and will seek testimony from the Baker administration.
Baker said Wednesday that his administration has shared information about the vaccine distribution plan with lawmakers.
“We look forward to talking to them about this,” Baker said.
Civil rights and immigrant activists started a new coalition Wednesday to call attention to the racial inequities in the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Massachusetts.
The Vaccine Equity Now! Coalition says it will issue five demands to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to address the disparities later Wednesday.
The coalition, which also includes elected officials and public health experts, says white residents have received 12 times more doses than Black residents and 16 times more doses than Latinx residents.
Baker’s office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment, but the coalition’s launch comes a day after the administration launched its latest effort to address the pandemic in the state’s hardest-hit cities and towns.
On Tuesday, Baker announced an outreach effort in 20 communities, including Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester.
The initiative, which includes hiring local residents for neighborhood and business outreach, is meant to increase awareness of the vaccine’s safety and reduce barriers to vaccination.
Carlene Pavlos, co-chair of the new coalition and executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, told The Boston Globe the effort is a step in the right direction, but “not sufficient or comprehensive enough.”
Other members of the coalition include the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the Immigrants Assistance Center, Lawyers for Civil Rights, the ACLU, and the NAACP.
Workers at the mass vaccination site at Gillette Stadium have now given out 65,878 coronavirus shots, enough to fill every seat at the home of the New England Patriots.
Brigitte Peters, 79, of Uxbridge, received two tickets to the team’s 2021 home opener for getting the landmark shot on Tuesday evening. It will be her first Patriots game.
She said she was excited to tell her grandchildren about the tickets, and the vaccination process was easy and painless.
“It couldn’t have been better, I didn’t even feel it,” she said.
The site operated by CIC Health opened Jan. 18 and started by administering about 300 vaccines per day. It is now giving about 4,000 shots per day, and plans to continue expanding.