Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that teachers, early educators and school staff members will be eligible to begin signing up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting on March 11.
"We think teachers should absolutely be part of the game starting next week," the governor said.
The group includes about 400,000 people, Baker said. Some mass vaccination sites are expected to set aside particular days to vaccinate educators, but he said all of that is still being figured out.
As soon as Baker made the announcement from a school in Gloucester, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken let out a loud exclamation: "Yes!"
The announcement came a day after President Joe Biden said he wants all teachers, staff and child care providers to be able to get the vaccine at pharmacies starting next week.
"We're making this announcement to be consistent with the Biden-Harris directive," Baker said. "We don't want people to be confused. But we obviously need a lot more doses a lot sooner than the current guidelines that have been applied to us by the feds if we're truly going to make it through this group as quickly as possible."
The demand for vaccine shots in the state has vastly outpaced the supply, causing frustration and chaos as the hundreds of thousands of eligible people compete for the tens of thousands of available appointments each week.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are expected to increase their production in March and the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved last week is making its way to clinics in Massachusetts and around the country, offering hope of an accelerating vaccination effort.
But Baker said Wednesday that the White House told states not to expect any substantial increase in supply until the end of March and cautioned that the addition of teachers and school staff to the eligible pool of residents means it will take longer to get to the next rounds of eligibility.
"It will probably take a while for all the folks who are part of this eligible group to work their way through the system," he said. "Our estimates are that first dose appointments will probably start to cover everybody in that group about a month after they're eligible."
CVS added teachers and staff to its COVID vaccine eligibility list for Massachusetts on Wednesday morning ahead of Baker's announcement.
According to the CVS website, K-12 teachers, daycare, preschool workers and staff are eligible to make vaccination appointments at Massachusetts locations.
"We’re aligning with updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines by making appointments available to pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers in all 17 states where we currently offer COVID-19 vaccines, including in MA and RI," a CVS spokesman said.
Biden's announcement already had Massachusetts teachers looking ahead on Tuesday.
"This is huge," said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. "This is going to bring a lot of joy to all school employees."
Many parents in Massachusetts are now looking forward to opening day in April -- not the Red Sox but the schools.
"They're slipping, you know? It's really hard, mentally, on them. They're not as challenged as they are physically in the school," said Maria Queenan of Everett.
State House News Service contributed to this report.