Ramping up their involvement after expressing frustration about Massachusetts' COVID-19 vaccine rollout, lawmakers plan to launch oversight hearings next week to examine the Baker administration's efforts.
The Legislature's new COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management Committee will host a hearing on Feb. 25 to hear testimony from the executive branch about how it has been distributing vaccine doses and its plans for the future.
House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka criticized the administration's approach as they unveiled their plans to get more involved. Mariano said the rollout "has been marked by both logistical and communications shortcomings" and Spilka called it a "constantly changing and confusing" plan.
Hearings will be led by Sen. Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat, and Rep. Bill Driscoll, a Milton Democrat, who are chairing the COVID-19 and emergency management panel.
"The Commonwealth seems to have been underprepared for the complexities in Phase One of the vaccine rollout," Driscoll said in a statement. "We all understand that patience is paramount in our current pandemic circumstances, but patience and public trust wear thin when there are constant pivots in the plan."
Testimony on Thursday will be by invitation-only for members of the Baker administration as well as chairs of the Legislature's Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, Health Care Financing, and Public Health committees. At least one future hearing will be open to public testimony, lawmakers said.
The oversight announcement came just before Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled plans to advance into the next step of the rollout plan, making doses available to those 65 and older, those with two or more comorbidities, and residents of low-income and affordable senior housing.
With over a million people newly eligible for vaccines and the state getting 110,000 first doses each week from the feds, Gov. Baker cautioned at a noontime press conference, "It will take a while, at least a month, for everybody to get appointments and get their first vaccination."
Through Monday, Massachusetts has administered more than 76 percent of the 1,158,050 vaccine doses shipped to the state, and 861,859 residents have received at least their first doses.
Massachusetts now ranks number one among states in total shots administered per capita among the 24 states with more than 5 million people, Baker said Wednesday, and ninth among states for first dose vaccinations per capita.