Fenway Park is expected to be one of the major vaccination sites for first responders across Massachusetts, according to the state's firefighter's union.
An estimated 45,000 first responders including police officers, firefighters and EMTs will receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a news conference this week.
In addition to Fenway Park, the president of the state's firefighters union says Gillette Stadium and the Big E Fairgrounds may also become large vaccination sites.
State officials say contracts are still pending, but more information is expected to be released later this week.
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Officials say these large-scale vaccination sites could eventually be open to the public.
"We expect these sites will have the capacity to administer 2,000 doses per day," Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said at a news conference.
"Police officers, firefighters EMTs and all first responders work in risky situations every day and this vaccine will protect them from COVID and the terrible illness that can come with it," Baker said.
There are three options for getting the vaccine, outlined on the state's first responder vaccination website:
- Departments that meet certain criteria, like being able to vaccinate at least 200 first responders and store the doses on-site, can administer the shots themselves. Some ambulance companies have already signed up, Sudders said.
- More than 60 sites have been stood up to give first responders the vaccine. (See the list here.)
- The state is working on developing four mass vaccination sites that can vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day, the details of which are still yet to be released. Baker said it's likely those sites would continue to be used after first responders are vaccinated.
People age 75 or older have been moved higher up in the order of Massachusetts' coronavirus vaccination plan, officials said Monday, as they released details on when the next group to get the vaccines, first responders, will be able to get them.
The 75-plus age group is now part of Phase 2, Group 1 in the rollout, joining people with two co-morbid conditions as those considered at high risk for complications from COVID-19, Sudders said at a news conference. They had previously been listed later in Phase 2. (See Massachusetts' full COVID vaccine timeline here.)
The change affects about 170,000 people and was recommended by the state's advisory board.
Health officials on Sunday announced 3,110 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 105 additional deaths as the number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus across Massachusetts continues to increase. The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased again, to 2,291.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths is near record levels, though the number of new cases is under half the record for the state.
"Obviously, due to the holidays there are a few lags in the reporting and fewer people getting tested. We expect that will catch up pretty quickly and give us a better picture about where our current trends stand in the next few days," Baker said.
He also said that the post-Christmas surge in coronavirus cases, which includes a record number of cases reported on Thursday, appears not to be as bad as the one Massachusetts had after Thanksgiving.
But he cautioned that the state still isn't seeing the effects of New Year's, and he noted that, "since Thanksgiving, the average age of the people who are being hospitalized has increased dramatically," from about 60 to around 73.
"That has real consequences with respect to life and death," the governor said.
The news conference was held amid scrutiny nationwide over the slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines, but Baker said that the state hasn't received any reports of doses being lost. Sudders said she's hearing that providers with extra shots are reaching out to others in their communities in an informal way to make sure they get used.
"Nobody wants to waste," she said.
Despite some bumps in the road in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, Baker said Massachusetts has received the 287,000 doses it originally expected by the end of the year. Just over 116,000 doses have been confirmed as given out, though officials cautioned that there's a lag in reporting when doses are administered and that some of the shots are reserved for second doses.
Still, some medical experts are considered that the vaccination rollout is moving too slow.
"I think that all of us in the field of healthcare are a little bit concerned about the way that the public sees the vaccine, I think that there’s a lot of trepidation," said Dr. Lara Jirmanus, a family care physician and clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. "I think that we should be vaccinating a larger percentage of our population than we already have done.”
Firefighters have criticized the intended approach for first-responder vaccination, saying that local boards of health "are not structurally prepared" for it. Baker has said the state's approach will need to work from an administrative and data-reporting perspective, and take into account that communities structure their public safety programs in different ways.