Baker Under Pressure to Accelerate Vaccine Eligibility Timeline

Massachusetts is one of just a handful of states sticking with a coronavirus vaccine eligibility date of April 19 as calls grow for Gov. Charlie Baker to move faster

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With variants spreading across Massachusetts and COVID-19 cases rising among younger people, some public health experts are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to accelerate the vaccination process.

Other states are moving up the timeline for when the general public can get the COVID-19 shot, but Massachusetts is one of a handful sticking with April 19, which is the latest date for universal eligibility in the country.

"We need a clear explanation from the governor and the state as to why we can't do that here, given that there are rising cases in younger adults," Boston epidemiologist Sam Scarpino said.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that states should open COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all U.S. adults by April 19. Scarpino, an assistant professor at Northeastern University, said Massachusetts' response has been insufficient compared with other states that have since adjusted their distribution.

"We need to move with more urgency, and if the issue is time, let's have 24-hour vaccination clinics," Scarpino said. "There are people who will go and get vaccinated at all hours."

Meanwhile, Massachusetts is receiving $62,490,285 in federal funding to boost local COVID vaccine efforts.

The money is part of tens of millions of dollars being pumped in to New England by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with Massachusetts, the most populous state, getting the most.

People 16 and older are set to become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine on April 19, but some public health experts are pushing for that to happen sooner.

Massachusetts ranks among the first states in the nation for coronavirus vaccinations, but it will also be one of the last to make shots available to everyone.

The wait has many frustrated and worried more people will lie about medical conditions just to get the shot sooner.

"I'm from Alabama and have a bunch of friends that have already gotten it, so I don't understand why I can't get it," Judah Mayowa said.

"It's still two more weeks, and if other states are opening up, Massachusetts should do it, as well," Shayna Scott said.

With many wondering why the state is waiting until April 19, NBC10 Boston asked Broad Institute scientist John Doench to weigh in.

"I think, to be honest, it's because Massachusetts has a very vaccine-excited population," Doench said. "We're very good at using our shots, which is a good thing."

NBC10 Boston asked Gov. Charlie Baker last week why he is not accelerating the rollout, especially as more vaccine becomes available.

"I think the schedule we've got in place is the right one," he said. "We've tried to make sure people who are eligible by these phases have an opportunity to get vaccinated before we go to the next phase."

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