In an effort to make the COVID-19 vaccine more accessible to residents 75 and older, Massachusetts plans to begin this week allowing anyone who accompanies an eligible senior to one of the state's mass vaccination sites to receive a shot themselves.
Effective Thursday at mass vaccination sites, anyone accompanying a person age 75 or older to get the vaccine may schedule their own appointment to be vaccinated on the same day.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said the new accommodation for trusted family, friends, neighbors or caregivers to get vaccinated along with vulnerable seniors came after consultation with councils on aging and other advocated for older adults.
While all the mass vaccination sites are handicap accessible, sites like Gillette Stadium or Fenway Park can be unfamiliar and intimidating to some, and allowing trusted companions to also get vaccinated is an effort to encourage more seniors to seek the inoculation.
A caregiver must schedule their own appointment online for the same day and location as the 75 or older resident. Only one caregiver may accompany each resident.
To schedule appointments for a 75 or older resident and a caregiver, go to mass.gov/covidvaccine and schedule two separate appointments at either the same time or adjacent. For the companion appointment, select the option "I am accompanying someone who is age 75+ to their vaccination appointment and my appointment is the same day." Anyone without internet access can call 211 for assistance booking both appointments.
A caregiver may receive their first dose of the vaccine if the 75 or older resident is receiving their second dose.
The state also announced it will be opening two new mass vaccination sites this month at the Natick Mall and at Circuit City in Dartmouth.
The Natick site will partner with LabCorp to begin administering 500 shots a day on Feb. 22, ramping up to as many as 3,000 doses a day.
The Dartmouth location will open two days later on Feb. 24 in partnership with Curtative. The site will also have the capacity to handle 500 patients a day to start, and eventually will be able to administer 2,000 shots a day, depending on supply.
Appointments for the new sites will go online beginning Feb. 18.
With Massachusetts now receiving about 108,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine a week from the federal government, Sudders said the state will post 100,000 appointments this week, including 74,000 new appointments that will be added online on Thursday.
Thirty new new retail pharmacy sites are opening at CVS and Walgreens locations around the state, and Sudders said 30,000 of the new appointments will be at pharmacies.
Earlier this week, Baker said the mass vaccination sites were "batting about 100% in terms of vaccine allocated and vaccine administered, and they'll continue to operate at that level."
The Department of Public Health reported Tuesday that of the 1,283,700 vaccine doses shipped to Massachusetts so far, 910,412 doses had been administered, or about 70.9%.
State House News Service contributed to this report.