Gov. Charlie Baker released new details Wednesday on the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations in Massachusetts.
On Monday, the state began administering vaccine doses to first responders — including police, firefighters and EMTs. The next step in the state's vaccine plan will focus on congregate care facilities.
Starting next week, roughly 94,000 people living and working in congregate care settings like group homes, shelters and correctional facilities will become eligible to receive the vaccine.
"These facilities are prioritized because they serve vulnerable populations in densely populated settings, which means they're at significant risk for contracting COVID-19," Baker said. "The staff are also high risk for exposure at these facilities, and many of them do amazing work and it's important that they're vaccinated to protect themselves and their families."
Massachusetts remains on track to begin Phase 2 of its vaccination plan sometime in February as initially announced, he said. Baker also defended the way his administration has made the COVID-19 available to this point on Wednesday.
"I know this isn't popular, but I really hope that early on we are able, with the vaccine that's available, to hit the populations for whom life is most at risk and for whom the health care system relies on and depends on to provide care. I do know that in a lot of states, people who are the same age as my kids have gotten vaccinated before people who are home health workers or health care workers or long-term care workers or long-term care residents or some of these other populations or people who have multiple comorbidities and are over the age of 70," the governor said in response to a question about vaccinations in Arizona. "Honestly, I just don't think that's the way we should do this. I think the focus early on should be on those who have the most to lose or who are fundamental to our ability to take care of those who have the most to lose."
Massachusetts has administered fewer doses on a per capita basis than any of its surrounding states and the vaccine has been made available so far primarily to COVID-facing health care workers, long-term care residents, and first responders. If all goes according to plan with the vaccine distribution from the federal government, Baker said, "many of the kinds of places that we're talking about with respect to vaccinating people could be running at a very significant clip" in 60 to 90 days.
On Tueday, Baker announced that Massachusetts is preparing to open its first mass vaccination site this week at Gillette Stadium as the state ramps up efforts to get shots into arms and help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The site will open Thursday by first administering vaccinations into staff members, he said.
Starting Monday, the site will begin giving shots to first responders. At first the site will have the capacity to administer up to 300 doses a day.
Baker said capacity will expand over time to up to 5,000 doses a day or more, eventually extending to the general population.
Eligible vaccine recipients will be able to schedule appointments on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website.
Vaccines are not expected to be available to the general public until April.
“The big hope on the horizon is the arrival of more vaccine,” Baker said. “In the meantime everybody’s still got to do their part to stop the spread of the virus in the months ahead.”