Four-Point Plan Broadens Access Points for COVID-19 Vaccine
More than a dozen Massachusetts pharmacies will administer thousands of COVID-19 vaccines through a new federal partnership, a mass vaccination site will open at Fenway Park next month, and UMass Amherst will expand its immunization efforts in an escalation of the state's rollout plans.
On a day when Gov. Charlie Baker made no public appearances, his office announced a significant uptick in vaccine capacity on four fronts, collectively adding thousands of doses per week to the state's capacity.
CVS and Walgreens pharmacies will share 10,000 vaccine doses per week to administer as part of the COVID-19 Centers for Disease Control Pharmacy Partnership, Baker's office said, making Massachusetts one of the first states in the new program.
Residents who are eligible to receive a vaccine in the first phase of the administration's prioritization plan -- including health care workers and first responders -- will be able to schedule appointments online this week at 15 participating locations in Greenfield, Fall River, Salem, South Yarmouth, Pittsfield, Lee, Holden, Gardner, Hyannis, Mashpee, Somerset, Fairhaven, Haverhill, Saugus and Danvers.
The program will expand next week to "approximately 40" more sites including other business partners such as Wegmans, Big Y, Price Chopper, Stop & Shop and Hannaford, according to the governor's office.
Fenway Park will launch on Feb. 1 as the second mass vaccination site in Massachusetts, the second such location following Gillette Stadium, for eligible populations.
At first, the home of the Boston Red Sox will be equipped to administer 500 vaccines per day and will scale up to more than 1,000 per day. It will continue to operate as a mass vaccination site "through the beginning of baseball season in early April," Baker's office said, while state officials work with city leaders to find a longer-term vaccine site in Boston.
Gillette opened Monday as the first mass vaccination site in the state with capacity for 300 vaccines per day, mostly aimed at first responders. The administration said Tuesday that the stadium should expand to more than 1,000 vaccinations per day this week and then 5,000 per day "soon after."
Plans for several other mass vaccination sites are in the works. Earlier on Tuesday, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the Baker administration told him Springfield would be home to a mass vaccination site.
"My administration was contacted Sunday evening and I look forward to Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito making an announcement in the very near future that the Springfield area will have a mass vaccination site very shortly," Sarno said in livestreamed remarks. "But I'll allow the governor and lieutenant governor to make that announcement."
Baker's office did not respond to questions about the potential Springfield location.
Another vaccine site at UMass Amherst expanded its operations on Tuesday. The college had been offering doses only to first responders, but shifted to open eligibility with online appointments to anyone who currently qualifies for a vaccine in western Massachusetts.
Elected officials and public health advocates have been pushing the Baker administration to make regional equity a central focus in its COVID response, particularly for testing and vaccine infrastructure.
Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan received assurance from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito last week that the administration would open a vaccination site somewhere near the city by the time the second phase of the vaccine distribution plan begins, according to a Herald News report.
The second phase, tentatively aimed to begin sometime in February, will broaden eligibility to include individuals with two or more comorbidities as well as employees in early education, K-12 education, transit, grocery stores and retail, utilities, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health.
Baker previously pushed adults 75 years old and older ahead in line toward the beginning of Phase Two. The federal government is now recommending that states prioritize vaccinating adults 65 and older, but the Baker administration has not indicated how it will adopt that guidance.
In another section of the multi-step expansion released Tuesday, the Baker administration launched a Hospital Depot Initiative aimed at using hospitals in different parts of the state to help funnel doses to smaller medical practices.
The program, co-managed with the Massachusetts Medical Society and Mass General Brigham, will deploy hospitals as vaccine depots.
"For clinical practices that are unable, due to their staff size and storage capacity, to receive larger, direct allocations of vaccine, a depot hospital will receive doses on their behalf and redistribute vaccine and all ancillary materials for office-based vaccination," Baker's office said. "In some cases, the hospital will provide direct vaccination to health care workers."
Mass General Brigham, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Brockton Hospital, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Baystate Medical Center and Berkshire Medical Center will participate as depots.