With Phase 2 of the Massachusetts vaccination process just three days away, frustrations with the state's registration system continue to grow.
All Massachusetts residents age 75 and older are now eligible to make an appointment to get the vaccine under Phase 2 of the rollout, which begins Monday, but there were numerous accounts of older residents who could not navigate the state's website or waited hours only to find that all slots were already full.
Various organizations, lawmakers, experts and residents have criticized Massachusetts' COVID-19 vaccination rollout, calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to set up a hotline to help seniors make appointments.
Baker answered the call Thursday, promising to create a call center by next week. But a significant part of the problem remains, he explained, which is the disparity between the high demand and limited supply of doses.
The Biden administration is promising additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for states including Massachusetts, but hasn’t offered specific details about the exact size of the increase for each state or when the additional supply will be delivered.
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The state's second mass vaccination site opened Friday at Fenway Park. Up to 500 people will be vaccinated per day when vaccinations begin there on Monday. Operations will gradually ramp up to 1,250 per day as the Massachusetts coronavirus vaccine rollout plan continues.
More than 35,000 new COVID-19 vaccination appointments went live Thursday at sites across the state, but most of them were quickly booked. The new appointments included 20,000 at the Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium mass vaccination sites which were spoken for within a matter of hours.
Baker said tens of thousands of new appointments will open up at the mass vaccination sites each Thursday, and smaller vaccination sites at CVS, Walgreens, Price Chopper and community health centers will post them more frequently but will have fewer slots to fill to begin with.
Additional mass vaccination sites are slated to open, including at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Danvers, the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury and the Cross River Center in Lowell. Lowell is also offering vaccines to its residents, but for now only has the capacity to administer about 400 doses a week.
On Thursday, state Sen. Eric Lesser filed legislation that would direct the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to immediately create a one-stop online sign-up for vaccinations accessible from desktop computers as well as mobile devices and a phone hotline in multiple languages.
“The Phase 2 vaccine rollout is creating mass confusion and anxiety for our eligible senior population," Lesser said. "The system is cumbersome, contradictory, and asks residents over 75 to navigate a haze of web links, locations, and instructions, each with different criteria and scheduling systems."