Dear Cambridge residents,
Last week, I sent you information regarding the rollout of the state vaccination signup. I want to be clear that I am giving you information sent to us from Governor Baker, who is managing the vaccination rollout. At this time the City of Cambridge has no control over opening vaccination sites. I am communicating my concerns to Governor Baker, by way of email, conversations with Secretary Sudders, Speaker Mariano and on Twitter. While I might not like the answers the Governor has, or may even disagree with his choices, he owes the public more clarity and transparency. Ideally, he should be holding a press conference every day to answer our questions. Otherwise, he risks an erosion of public confidence, which no one can afford to lose in a public health crisis.
What considerations were taken into account when deciding what groups would be eligible for the vaccine and when?
These are the state's Vaccine Advisory Group's priorities. I am trying to hold them to these standards, particularly the last:
- Preserve the healthcare system
- Limit severe morbidity and mortality
- Promote equity
What are the different types of vaccination sites?
From what we understand, public vaccination sites other than mass vaccination sites or pharmacies working with the federal partnership program were identified by the state and then asked if they could provide vaccines to the general public or only to local residents. You will see a color code for these different types of sites on the vaccination location map.
- Red star: Mass vaccination sites (high volume, large venue sites)
- Green star: General vaccination sites (healthcare locations)
- Blue star: General vaccination sites (pharmacy/grocery locations)
- Yellow star: Local vaccination sites (Note: Check the "Serves" field in the pin details. These sites are only open to residents of select cities and towns.)
Why doesn't Cambridge have a vaccination site?
We all want a vaccination site to open in Cambridge - every city should have easy access. As soon as the CHA and DPH have the supply and the green light they will move ahead. The City does not have control but there is a plan ready to launch once we get that green light. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, and Governor Baker needs to do a better job every day of explaining why not.
How many vaccines are we receiving and administering?
Massachusetts is receiving 86,000 first doses of the vaccine weekly. By mid-February, we will have staffed capacity to administer around 305,000 doses per week, and a supply of roughly 100,000 weekly first doses and 100,000 weekly second doses. Those doses will be administered at a rate of about:
- 76,000 doses per week at 6 mass vaccination sites
- 38,000 doses per week at public vaccination sites like CVS and Walgreens
- 19,000 vaccinations per week at restricted vaccination sites.
- 86,000 doses per week each at 1) other providers such as congregate care settings and correctional facilities and 2) health systems, PCPs and health care centers.
The bottleneck in vaccination is due to a limited supply, not a shortage of staff to administer vaccinations. That being said, if you are a health professional who would like to volunteer to help with the state's COVID-19 response, you can sign up here.
How can I make an appointment?
If you have a primary care provider, it's a good idea to check with them. Some residents have had much more success scheduling appointments through their doctor's office than through the state's website. If you have access to a computer and are able to navigate the sites, you can access the state's website at https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine. There you will see two options: a link to follow if you are over 75 and a set of questions to answer to determine your eligibility otherwise. Once you confirm your eligibility, you can search for a nearby site on the vaccination location map or by zip code. You can also try to find an appointment directly through CVS, Walgreens , or CICHealth (for Gillette or Fenway). The City of Cambridge has updates about the vaccine at https://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19/vaccine.
We need a more streamlined approach that is both technologically user friendly and meets the following criteria:
- Accessible by website and phone.
We need a system that is more inclusive and efficient one - that can meet the needs of Seniors and many others who will need to be engaged through known relationships.
What is going on with the registration system?
At this time, it is clear that Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito have developed a delivery system that centers seniors who are able to access the State's website and have hours to hit a refresh button in search of finding an available appointment. If you live in Cambridge, or the many other communities that do not have a vaccination site, you also need to have safe transportation. Even if you are a senior who meets these criteria, we know that many of this subgroup of seniors has struggled to get appointments. Governor Baker has announced that a phone number for booking appointments will launch this week but that will not solve many of these challenges.
What about the barriers to access?
This then leads us to the reality that many seniors were not centered in this rollout. The delivery system is failing seniors who can't access and/or navigate the website, do not speak English, do not have transportation, or are unaware or unable to participate and engage in the vaccination process. I have also asked for further clarity in what seems to be a change in prioritizing seniors in public housing. At one point this category was included in the priority groups for Phase Two but it seems to have disappeared last week. This needs to be clear and transparent in communications from Governor Baker.
I'm worried about constituents, residents across the state, and my own family members who would have been vaccinated by now if they lived in other states. I'm seeing your social media posts, reading your emails, sharing your frustration, and - most importantly - engaging with the governor's office for more transparency and access. We need better answers or the public's trust will continue to erode.
I believe that over the month of February this will become more streamlined, but that is no this is of no consolation to those who may contract the virus between now and getting a vaccination, or to their families. Until this process improves, I share the angst of the roller coaster of this moment. I'm not passive and I'm doing everything I can. I'm also trying to appreciate the obstacles that are before us right now for a variety of reasons, good and bad.
Is there any good news?
I was relieved to see that 100% of skilled nursing facilities and rest home clinics have been scheduled, as have 95% of assisted living residence clinics and 92% of continuing care retirement community clinics. In addition, 100% of skilled nursing facility first dose clinics have been completed, as have 74% of assisted living residence first dose clinics and 77% of continuing care retirement community first dose clinics. I am also glad that today, after its soft launch, Fenway is open as a mass vaccination site. It will offer 500 doses a day with an eventual goal of 1,250 a day. In preparation for the upcoming snow storm, it opened an hour early this morning and officials encouraged people with afternoon appointments to come before 1:00 PM today instead.
I am a Senior, how can I get help with transportation?
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is offering free transportation, via one of its transportation providers, for local older adults to nearby COVID-19 vaccination sites. To register for a ride, call 617-628-2601 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more here.
Governor Baker has asked for your patience and persistence as they are adding new appointments on a rolling basis. While this is not an acceptable solution or a response to the crisis, I also believe that he and his team will continue to make improvements.
If you are a constituent and you are having difficulty making an appointment, please email my office at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov and we will do the best that we can to assist you.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@MAHouse.gov.