This article originally appeared in the February 2021 edition of Senior Scope. Article by Seth Thomas.
This article was updated on Feb. 5. Information about Phase 2 is rapidly developing. Please visit the state’s website for the most up-to-date information: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-vaccination-phases
Massachusetts began its vaccination rollout strategy by prioritizing those most at risk for catching the virus and by doing its best to support the overburdened health care system. With Phase 1 of the vaccination rollout underway, the state is turning its focus to the next step.
During a press conference on Jan. 25, the Baker-Polito administration announced that Phase 2 would begin on Feb. 1. At the time, the number of new COVID cases and hospitalizations started to decline after a surge brought on by the holiday season.
Baker said that by mid-February, the state plans to have 165 publicly available vaccination sites open throughout the state with the capacity to administer 305,000 vaccines a week, but how many vaccines will actually be administered at these sites “will depend on several variables, including the availability of doses from the federal government.”
The state’s website features a map of the state with all available vaccination sites, which enables those who are eligible to make an appointment at any given location. The website will be regularly updated as new locations become available.
The state is also in the process of opening seven mass vaccination sites, which includes Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park. By Feb. 15, the state intends to open 71 more retail pharmacy locations.
During the Jan. 25 press conference, Baker announced that those age 65 and above would be moved up the priority list to become second in line.
About two weeks prior, the CDC had urged states to vaccinate everyone age 65 and over. By that point many states had already moved forward with their own vaccination plans, which prioritized other groups, like health care workers and people living in congregate settings.
That plan was revised, and the priority list is as follows:
- Individuals age 75+
- Individuals age 65+, individuals with 2+ comorbidities (which includes conditions like COPD, cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions, obesity, pregnancy, type-2 diabetes) and/or residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing.
- Other workers in select industries
- Individuals with one comorbid condition
(The list above is frequently updated and clarified. Please see the state’s website for the most up-to-date version of the priority list by clicking here.)
How will you know if it’s your turn to receive the vaccine?
According to the state’s website, during Phase 2, people will be vaccinated either by their employer, their primary care physician, or at their local pharmacy or clinic. People who have comorbidities will be contacted by “treating clinicians, health insurers (including MassHealth), and patient advocacy groups…to encourage them to receive COVID-19 vaccination.”
How do you sign up for a vaccination appointment?
The state’s website features a map of vaccination sites. When you click on one of those sites, a menu with additional information, including a link to schedule an appointment, should pop up. More information on how to get assistance scheduling an appointment will be available as local governments work out the details of distribution. You can call your local council on aging, your local health department, your doctor’s office or Coastline for info.
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs cautions that “it may take several weeks to get an appointment at a location near you. As more vaccine supply arrives in Massachusetts, additional appointments will become available.”
Should I get the vaccine?
While the vaccination is not mandatory, it can help protect you and the people around you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts believe the COVID-19 vaccine may prevent you from becoming seriously ill even if you contract COVID-19.
How do I schedule an appointment?
To book an appointment online, visit mass.gov/covidvaccine.
On Feb. 5, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) announced that residents age 75 and older can get help booking vaccine appointments through the state’s non-emergency helpline, 2-1-1. The live phone support line will be open Monday through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. According to a Facebook post from MEMA, “live call center workers will be available in English and Spanish, and 100 additional languages will be available through translators.”
Call center staffers will be using the public website to book appointments. MEMA warns that there may be a significant wait to due a high call volume. Moreover, demand for the vaccine is high, and supply is limited.
The help line can be accessed by dialing 2–1–1 and selecting the prompt for “Help Scheduling a Vaccine Appointment.”
For more information, visit mass.gov/covidvaccine or can reach out to your local council on aging, your local health department, your doctor’s office or Coastline.