Baker offers vaccines to ‘companions’ of those over 75

Also announces two more mass vaccination sites in Dartmouth, Natick

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Wednesday said anyone bringing someone 75 and over to one of the state’s mass vaccination sites can also get inoculated even if it’s not their appointed time in the vaccine pecking order.

Baker said he believed the new policy, which takes effect Thursday, will encourage more people 75 and over to get inoculated and possibly speed up the transition to the next priority group – those 65 and older. He likened the companion policy to what many supermarkets have done, setting aside special times for older people to shop.

“We’ve got to get as far through the 75s as we can because they are, in many respects, far more vulnerable to COVID than anyone else,” Baker said. The average age of those who have died from COVID has consistently fluctuated between 79 and 81.

The governor  also said senior groups have told his administration that many people over 75 don’t want to be a burden and are reluctant to ask for help, even from a family member. He said by allowing those providing assistance to be vaccinated, the feeling of being a burden may be removed. He also said many 75 and older are showing up with spouses who are 71, 72, 73, and 74 and right now are being turned away.

Joan Hatem-Roy, the CEO of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley, called the new policy a “game changer” for those people over 75 who are nervous about going to a mass vaccination site.

The Baker administration also announced that new mass vaccination sites will open soon in Natick and Dartmouth.  The location at the Natick Mall will open February 22, initially administering 500 doses a day and eventually scale up to 3,000 doses a day. The site in Dartmouth, formerly a Circuit City store, will open February 24 dispensing 500 doses initially, scaling up to 2,000 a day.

With the two new sites, the state will reach its complement of seven mass vaccination locations — Fenway Park in Boston, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, and eventually the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston’s Roxbury section. Anyone eligible to be vaccinated can make an appointment at the mass vaccination sites.

Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services, said inoculations will be handled through a regional collaborative effort in the Lowell area, Cape Cod, and the Berkshires.

On Thursday, Sudders said, 74,000 appointments will be posted online for mass vaccination sites and pharmacies at locations statewide.

Approximately 30,000 additional appointments will be posted over the course of the week at pharmacies—totaling over 100,000 new appointments this week for mass vaccination sites and pharmacies.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Freelance reporter, Formerly worked for CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

On a separate vaccine topic, Sudders was asked whether state policy sanctioned the practice, being reported in recent days, of providers administering vaccines left over at the end of the day to people not eligible according to the current vaccination schedule.

Sudders said such use of vaccines isn’t “official policy,” but she also said the official policy is “that we don’t want vaccines left idle or wasted.”

She said vaccine waste has been minimal – about 1,096 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 176 of the Pfizer, for a total of 1,272 doses, or 0.13 percent of the total so far.