Baker wants to send National Guard to pick up vaccines

Governor seeking OK to retrieve vaccine supply from Tennessee and Kentucky  

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER is seeking federal permission to send the Massachusetts National Guard to pick up vaccine doses from Tennessee and Kentucky, to avoid weather-related delays.  

Baker said the state was informed Wednesday evening by the federal government that Massachusetts might see a “significant delay” in its shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses for next week due to weather issues around the country. The federal government is in charge of distributing doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to each state, and Massachusetts is expecting 139,000 doses next week. But winter storms pummeling the United states have led to significant shipping delays around the country.  

Baker said at a virtual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce forum that he and leaders of other states are “trying to take this into our own hands.” He said the National Guard is willing to pick up the vaccines from where they are housed in Kentucky and Tennessee and bring them back, but they need federal permission. 

“We can’t afford to go a week without getting new doses from the feds and continue to make the appointment schedules people here expect and anticipate we’ll be able to maintain,” Baker said. 

More than 1 million people in Massachusetts became newly eligible for vaccines on Thursday, as Baker opened vaccination up to people over age 65, those with two or more qualifying medical conditions, and residents and staff of affordable and low-income senior housing complexes. But the vaccine eligibility expansion got off to a rough start, with thousands of residents unable to make appointments after the state sign-up website crashed under a crush of traffic. 

At the Chamber of Commerce forum, Baker reiterated that the biggest problem is a lack of supply. He said he gets 450,000 requests from providers each week who want to administer the shots, but the state has only been getting 110,000 doses a week, with an increase scheduled for next week. He said he is hopeful that the FDA will approve the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, which will increase the number of available doses.