Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said 50,000 new vaccination appointments will be made available on Thursday morning, and some key improvements have been made to the state's scheduling website after it crashed last week.
The new appointments will be added at mass vaccination locations, including Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, Springfield, Danvers, Dartmouth and Natick. Retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are expected to administer an additional 20,000 doses next week.
Residents can go to mass.gov/covidvaccine on Thursday morning to find and schedule their appointments. Anyone without access to a computer can call 211.
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When new appointments went live last Thursday, the state's scheduling website crashed just as about 1 million people age 65 and older became eligible for the vaccine.
"I think a lot of work has been done over the past week that's been designed specifically to make sure the website can handle extraordinary volume over a very short period of time," Baker said Wednesday.
That includes the addition of a new "digital waiting room" aimed at preventing outages if too many people attempt to access the site at once.
"The first thing is to make sure the site itself actually performs," Baker said. "The site did deliver 50,000 appointments last week on a day when it crashed in the morning. But it was a really rough and rocky user experience. For tomorrow, the most important thing is that the experience be predictable."
The governor said the real problem continues to be that there are more people eligible for the vaccine in Massachusetts than there are doses available. But he said he is encouraged by the news that Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine has been deemed safe and effective by the FDA, and that Moderna and Pfizer have said they plan to double production of their vaccines in March.
"The news out of Washington on some of this stuff right now is actually encouraging," he said. "I think for all of us who are continuing to struggle with some of the issues around anxiety related to the lack of supply, this could be a really big moment if in fact what people are saying actually plays out over the next 30 to 45 days."
But without an increase in vaccine supply from the federal government, Baker said it will probably take about a month to move through the current eligibility groups and onto the next groups of people in the phased distribution plan.
"If we see an increase, obviously, in weekly first dose vaccines, that process might go a little quicker," he said.
Baker spoke after touring the Natick Mall mass vaccination site. The site, served by LabCorp, opened earlier this week with plans to start administering around 100 doses of the vaccine a day. Officials hope to give about 5,000 doses a day by mid-March.
Also Wednesday, Baker announced a new $4.7 million initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity in the 20 communities most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. His administration also announced 11 high-efficiency regional vaccination collaboratives involving local health officials and other regional partners.
The regional locations -- which include sites at the Marshfield Fairgrounds and the Polish American Citizens Club in Gardner -- announced Wednesday have capacity to vaccinate at least 750 people per day, subject to supply, and will be open to all Massachusetts residents starting March 1, according to the Baker administration.
The governor is due to testify before the Legislature's COVID-19 and Emergency Management and Preparedness Committee on Thursday at an oversight hearing probing the state's beleaguered vaccine rollout.
Lawmakers continue to raise questions about the state's technology, the lack of ability to preregister for a shot and the decision to stop distributing vaccine to local clinics in favor of high-capacity vaccination sites.