About 400,000 educators, child care workers and school staffers became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Massachusetts, Thursday, as the state released its latest batch of vaccination appointments.
With demand for appointments soaring, the state Thursday morning made available some 40,000 new appointments next week at mass vaccination sites. As in previous weeks, wait times on the state's vaccination website were long, and appointments were fully booked within hours.
The new appointments -- and the addition of teachers and school staff as an eligible group -- came as Massachusetts prepares to launch a new preregistration system for vaccine appointments Friday aimed at smoothing out the state's rocky vaccine rollout.
New appointments are being posted Thursday on the state's Vaxfinder website for the last time. Over 40,000 new first dose appointments for mass vaccination sites will go live, along with over 47,000 second dose appointments at mass vaccination sites.
Anyone who is unsuccessful Thursday will be able to go online Friday and book through the preregistration site. The state's 211 call center also has access to make appointments for anyone who cannot use a computer.
When Gov. Charlie Baker announced the new online tool Wednesday, he also said the state's seven mass vaccination sites will be reserved exclusively for educators during four dedicated days in March and April.
Officials warned that eligible preregistered recipients may need to wait "several weeks" to get notification of open appointment slots given ongoing supply constraints.
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.
In the meantime, Massachusetts will not receive an increase in first-dose vaccine allotment until the end of March, officials said Wednesday. The state currently receives a constrained supply of about 150,000 first doses weekly.
Baker first announced that teachers would join the state's population of eligible people last week, shortly after President Joe Biden urged states to prioritize them for vaccinations.
Pharmacies like CVS added teachers and staff to its COVID vaccine eligibility list for Massachusetts last week ahead of Baker's announcement.
Educator Vaccination Days
Educators, childcare workers and K-12 school staff can get the vaccine from any of the 170 public vaccine sites available on Mass.Gov/Vaccine.
The Baker administration designated four days where the state’s seven mass vaccination sites will only offer first dose appointments for the demographic: Saturday, March 27, Saturday, April 3, Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11.
Given the limited supply, officials warned that educators may not be able to get the vaccine until mid-April or later.
Workers in this group must use the new pre-registration system to request an appointment at one of the seven mass vaccination sites and attest they are a K-12 educator, childcare worker or K-12 school staff.
All other vaccine providers (including Regional Collaboratives) are encouraged, but not required, to restrict their appointments to K-12 educators, child care workers and K-12 school staff on those days. Providers may designate alternative dates, in lieu of the four dates designated by the state, if necessary.
All vaccine providers (including regional collaboratives) must submit their dates for educator clinics by Tuesday, March 16. The Command Center will post the schedule for all clinics next week.
K-12 educators, childcare workers and K-12 school staff are urged to book appointments through mass.gov/COVIDvaccine on Thursday and to book through the federal retail pharmacy program’s CVS website.