MA Vaccinating New Groups Next Week, Staying Course With Rollout

Mike Carraggi

Massachusetts, already distributing vaccines at a slower rate than many states including those in New England, will begin Monday vaccinating some 94,000 people in congregate care settings.

Those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine next week are people living in shelters, group homes, residential programs with people with intellectual disabilities and behavioral challenges and — somewhat controversially — prisons.

"These facilities are prioritized because they serve vulnerable populations in densely populated settings, which means they're at significant risk for contracting COVID-19," Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday. "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."

Department of Correction facilities will administer vaccines to about 6,500 inmates and 4,500 officers and staff in the next three weeks.

Residents and workers at non-correctional congregate care facilities can either administer their own vaccines if they can innoculate at least 200 people, work through pre-existing relationships with health providers like pharmacies and hospitals or go to a mass vaccination site.

The first mass vaccination site in the state is opening Monday at Gillette Stadium.

Baker said the state could get to a point where it's vaccinating people regardless of how old they are or where they work, but for now he's sticking with the rollout plan.

After people in congregate care setting, the state will round out phase one of its vaccination plan with home-based health care workers and non-COVID-facing health care workers.

Phase two is expected to start in February and will start with people with at least two comorbidities, people 75 or older and — in a change announced Wednesday — residents and staff in public and private low-income and affordable senior housing.

Outside of that change, Baker said the state will stay the course with its plan despite vaccinating few people per capita than any state in New England.

"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," Baker said.

This article originally appeared on the Boston Patch