MA communities furious as Baker disrupts vaccine supply – NBC Boston

City and county officials are furious at Gov. Charlie Baker’s move to prioritize mass vaccination sites over local clinics, in what one mayor called a “slap in the face.”

“This is just an absolute disaster,” said Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux. “Other states have done a much better job than Massachusetts.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders sent a letter to cities and towns on Wednesday, informing officials that the state had suspended the shipment of the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine for most individual city clinics, effective May March 1st. Instead, the state is prioritizing mass vaccination sites and regionalized clinics.

Communities across Massachusetts will lose access to coronavirus vaccine doses, which will go to larger locations.

“This is a slap in the face to our health department and health departments across the state,” Heroux said. “It was very disappointing. A centralized vaccination effort is not the way forward. It pulls people out of the community into communities they are unfamiliar with.”

Community leaders, first responders and public health officials from across Plymouth and Norfolk counties will raise concerns about the state’s recent change in rolling out vaccine distribution at an event in Whitman at 10am Thursday. Fire Chief Timothy Grenno is hosting on behalf of the Whitman Fire Department.

“We want our residents to know that we have fought for them every step of the way and will continue to make our voices heard as vaccines are distributed,” Chief Grenno said. “We stand ready to continue giving the vaccine to first responders, healthcare workers and members of our elderly population, but our ability to do so is dependent on receiving doses from the state.”

“It’s disappointing and demoralizing,” Easton City Manager Connor Read said.

Community leaders, first responders and public health officials are raising concerns about the state’s recent change in rolling out vaccine distribution, which prioritizes mass vaccination sites over local clinics.

“There’s a certain level of frustration in our city,” said Jeff Blanchard, Hanover fire chief.

Massachusetts is in the midst of transitioning to Phase 2 of the vaccination schedule, which will eligibility nearly 1 million people. Starting Thursday, residents aged 65 and over and people with two or more medical conditions can start making appointments.

Because of the large number of eligible people and lack of supplies, the Baker administration said it needed to streamline the vaccine distribution process. State health officials said the goal is to increase capacity at mass vaccination sites like Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium, along with regional collaborations and dispensaries.

Residents age 65 and older and those with two or more specific medical conditions are eligible for Massachusetts’ coronavirus vaccine starting Thursday.

“The biggest limitation right now is the supply of vaccines,” said Dr. Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel in an interview with NBC10 Boston and NECN. According to Bharel, the state is currently receiving about 100,000 new cans a week.

“The tenets of our vaccine distribution are efficiency, efficacy and equity,” Bharel said. She pointed to a new justice initiative that is prioritizing 20 cities and towns that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The latest vaccine dose limit policy does not apply to these communities.

Communities that have their own vaccination clinics will continue to receive their second dose of vaccine for those who have already received one at their local city clinic.

Baker has come under fire for the state’s vaccine rollout and has been criticized by the congressional delegation, state legislators and communities of color.

Massachusetts lawmakers will hold oversight hearings on how the Baker administration handled rolling out the coronavirus vaccine.

Lawmakers announced oversight hearings to examine the rollout on Wednesday. Baker said he’s looking forward to it. Regarding the criticism, he pointed out that Massachusetts is the only state that prioritizes mental health, prisons and homeless communities.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Massachusetts is improving significantly and now ranks 10th in the country for immunizations per capita – but that did little to quell criticism this week.

There are currently over 170 vaccination centers in the Commonwealth. Currently, nearly 95% of the state’s population lives within a 45-minute drive of a mass vaccination site or within 30 minutes of a regional high-traffic location—not counting pharmacy, provider, and community health center vaccination sites.

Booking details are available via the COVID-19 Vaccine Finder, which allows residents to search for a vaccination site and view appointment availability before scheduling. The tool can be accessed through the state’s vaccination website at www.mass.gov/COVIDvaccine or directly at https://vaxfinder.mass.gov.

People who cannot access appointments over the internet can call 211 and follow the instructions for vaccination appointments.

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