Boston, Coronavirus Updates, Metro

Mass. Residents Over 16 to Be Eligible for Vaccine Starting April 19

The general public, including all residents 16 years and older, will be eligible to receive the vaccine in Massachusetts on April 19, according to Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement on Wednesday. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is no longer distributing vaccine supply to colleges and universities, according to Boston College Senior Associate Director of Communications Ed Hayward in an email to The Heights

“Those who are eligible for the vaccine must follow the state’s vaccination appointment protocols,” he said. “The University is in daily contact with the DPH on a range of topics, including vaccines, and will respond appropriately to any changes in the distribution policy in order to support the BC community.”

Residents 60 years and older and certain workers—including restaurant staff, food pantry workers, grocery store workers, and transportation workers—will be eligible for vaccination on Monday, Baker said. Residents 55 and older and residents with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer, or heart conditions, will be eligible on April 5. 

“We all know that the anxiety that’s created by this process can be stressful for many people, and we hope that this clarity will help everybody plan ahead and know what to expect and when,” Baker said at a press conference. “These dates are when people will become eligible, and it will take time obviously for the vaccine to arrive here in Massachusetts, and for everyone in these groups to get appointments, and to get vaccinated.”

Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation for administering first doses of the vaccine to 26 percent of the population, and 13 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times.

“It’s important to remember that everyone who wants a vaccine will get one. And that practically no other state in America is moving as quickly as we are, and as equitably as we are here in Massachusetts,” Baker said at a press conference. 

All residents can pre-register to be notified about available appointments at the seven mass vaccination sites when it becomes their turn to book appointments based on eligibility guidelines, according to Baker. 

Eligible residents can also book appointments at any of the 200 public vaccination sites that are available through the website, Baker said. This includes pharmacies, regional collaborative sites, and some local board of health sites. 

The state is receiving an increase in supply of first dose vaccines of approximately 170,000, according to a statement from Baker’s administration. This increase includes 8,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

“We can only move as fast as the manufacturers produce vaccines and thankfully production is picking up,” Baker said. “And yesterday we were able to get some assurances around how many doses, we can expect in the next few weeks, and then to April, those assurances represent an increase in supply that will be heading to Massachusetts as well as to many other states.”

The Commonwealth currently has the capacity to administer “far more” doses than it is actually receiving, according to Baker.

“This week we also saw a solid boost in that federal allocation for the pharmacy program, as well as more for federally qualified community health centers receiving doses directly from the federal government, and that makes it possible for us to put together a clear schedule for when all residents will be eligible to be vaccinated here in Massachusetts,” Baker said.

Baker hinted at the vaccination update in a tweet on Tuesday. 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently in Phase 2 of vaccination rollout. The group now eligible for the vaccine includes people over 65, people with two or more medical conditions on the list from the state, people in low income and affordable senior housing, and K-12 educators. 

Within the next 24 hours, Baker said that one million people in the Commonwealth will be fully vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 1.6 million people had received the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and about 63,000 people have received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to Baker. 

This vaccination plan follows President Joe Biden’s guidance for all adults to be eligible for the vaccine by May 1. 

The Commonwealth said in December that the general population would become eligible for the vaccine in late April or early May. Baker said during Wednesday’s press conference that Massachusetts remains on track to meet its initial deadlines. 

Because older populations are more vulnerable to the virus, the Commonwealth is taking steps to prioritize those 55 and older to help vaccinate this population more quickly, Baker said. 

Though Baker acknowledged that the coming vaccines will bring relief, he emphasized the continued importance of COVID-19 testing to contain the spread of the virus. He said that testing is free at sites throughout the Commonwealth and that it is still a powerful tool to stop the spread of the virus. 

In addition to testing, Baker reiterated the need for residents of the Commonwealth to continue wearing masks and following safety guidelines. Currently, the statewide seven-day average positivity rate is 1.86 percent and has been under two percent for several weeks, Baker said. 

“The vaccines can’t come fast enough,” Baker said. “But it’s important we don’t forget that COVID is still very much with us and it’s going to be with us for the foreseeable future. We can’t let our guard down and we certainly shouldn’t do so when we’re this close to the finish line.” 

Featured Image By Johnathan Barry / Heights Staff

March 17, 2021