Baker unwilling to talk vaccine passports

Despite plea from 2 lawmakers, gov says focus is on vaccinations

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER is uninterested in talking about vaccination passports.

Asked whether Massachusetts might consider creating vaccine passports – which would impose restrictions on unvaccinated individuals – Baker did not explicitly say no, but said his focus is on getting people vaccinated. “Having a conversation about creating a barrier before people had an opportunity to be eligible to be vaccinated, let’s focus on getting people vaccinated,” Baker said, speaking after visiting a vaccination site in Revere.

In late March, the governor seemed more receptive to the idea. “It’s a conversation worth having for all kinds of reasons but I would rather have the feds give us a framework to begin with,” Baker said. “Having 50 states doing 50 different things on this could get pretty complicated.”

Baker in March also said he believes Massachusetts would have to pass a law allowing the state to create a vaccine pass program because authority doesn’t exist under current law.

Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover and Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen sent a letter to Baker and President Biden on Tuesday urging them to quickly set standards and policies for vaccine passes. The lawmakers said the time to act is now.

New York recently became the first state to roll out a vaccine passport, a digital pass that could let attendees at mass gatherings like sports games or concerts prove that they were vaccinated. Israel has created a vaccine pass for that country’s residents, and other countries, states, and industries are talking about it.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Baker continued to stress that many questions about how fast people can get vaccinated depend on supply. Asked about the potential of having a drive-in vaccination site at Gillette Stadium, Baker said, “There are a lot of things we can do if supply is available. But I’m hesitant to speak to any particular approach until we see more visibility with regards to where we’re going to be on supply.” He said Massachusetts is now distributing 60,000 to 90,000 vaccine doses a day, but the capacity exists to give two or three times as many shots, if the supply were there.

Baker also reiterated the value of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but said the state cannot count on getting significant supply of it. After getting a one-time boost of 100,000 Johnson & Johnson doses this week, Massachusetts expects to get just 12,000 doses and 4,000 doses the next two weeks.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Baker said without more information about supply, it is impossible to know when everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get it.

Baker also announced that the state will be making changes to its preregistration website to let people select a vaccination location before scheduling an appointment. Now, people are assigned to the site closest to them. So far, 1.5 million people have registered through the site and 800,000 have been contacted to make an appointment. The site schedules appointments for the seven mass vaccination sites, and it will add regional sites in Amherst/Northampton and Marshfield to the mix this week.