By Lauren Bennett
Governor Charlie Baker announced on Wednesday that beginning on February 18, individuals age 65 and older, as well as those with two or more “certain medical conditions” will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
These conditions include: “asthma (moderate-to-severe), cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Down Syndrome, heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies, immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, obesity and severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher), pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, [and] Type 2 diabetes mellitus,” according to the state.
“Our goal has been to protect and preserve life, and support our healthcare system,” Baker said.
On February 1, residents age 75 and older became eligible for the vaccine, and Baker said that the state has “seen significant progress over the past two weeks to get shots in arms to that community.”
Last week, 285,000 total doses were administered, and more than 251,000 residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, Baker said, which is “over half of the statewide population in this group” and “exceeds the national average for this group.” In total, more than 1.1 million doses have been administered statewide.
“We now rank number nine in the country for first dose vaccinations per capita,” Baker said, adding that the state ranks number one nationwide “for total shots administered per capita among the 24 states that have more than five million people.”
Baker said that there are “hundreds of sites across the state” that are able to administer the vaccine, and that 95 percent of the state’s population “lives within a 45 minute drive of a mass vaccination site” or within a 30 minute drive of a high volume regional provider.
“We’ve also made improvements to the booking process by developing new tools on our website and opening a call center to assist residents who can’t book appointments online,” Baker said.
Beginning February 18, those 65 and older and those with two or more medical conditions outline by the state can book an appointment for their first vaccine at mass.gov/covidvaccine.
Baker said that new appointments will be available on Thursday morning beginning at around 8 a.m.
“There’s no reason to stay up all night,” he said, harkening back to the rush that hit the state system when vaccination was opened up to those 75 and older.
However, Baker stressed that getting an appointment might not happen immediately for all those who are eligible because the state is limited by how much vaccine it receives from the federal government.
“These two groups that we’re now opening up the vaccination process to represents approximately a million people,” “It’s important to remember that the federal government only sends states a small amount of vaccine every week.”
He said that for the past few weeks, Massachusetts has received approximately 110,000 first doses per week.
“Unless we see a massive increase in shipments from the feds, it will take us at least a month for people in these new groups to be able to book their first vaccine appointment,” Baker said.
“We all remain hopeful that those numbers will increase from the federal government as we go forward, but it’s important for people to understand that at this point in time, it’s about 110,000 new doses a week for first doses, and we now have a group that represents somewhere around a million people that’s going to be joining the ranks of those who are eligible.”
Baker said that the state continues to build out capacity at vaccination sites so “if and when” the supply increases, they will be prepared to vaccinate as many people as possible.
“There’s going to be vaccine eventually for everyone, and everyone will get an appointment,” he said. “It’s just going to take a little while.”