By SCOTT JACKSON
Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced four of Massachusetts’ seven mass COVID-19 vaccination sites will be closing by the end of June as the state refocuses its inoculation efforts to target harder-to-reach populations.
The sites scheduled to close include the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, as well as locations in Danvers and Natick. The remaining three sites – Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center plus locations in Dartmouth and Springfield – will remain open.
Speaking at a State House press conference, Baker said 3.95 million Bay State residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. With 180,000 individuals slated to get their first dose this week, the state will reach Baker’s goal of fully vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the start of June.
“This represents an incredible achievement. The people of Massachusetts are outperforming the rest of the country by leaps and bounds,” the governor said.
“Now that we believe we are going to hit the 4.1 million goal we started with over the next few weeks, it is time to adapt our vaccination effort to make sure we get to some of the harder-to-reach populations.”
As part of that effort, Baker said the state would “shift vaccines to smaller-scale operations that can focus on particular communities or particular populations.”
“By bringing the vaccine to where people are so that everyone knows they have an easy opportunity to protect themselves and their families, we hope to make this process more convenient, more accessible, and continue to add to the count of those who are already full vaccinated here in Massachusetts,” he said.
Baker said more doses would be provided to the state’s 22 regional collaboratives. The number of doses allocated to the state’s 20 hardest hit communities will be doubled, he said, and mobile vaccination clinics will be expanded.
The governor also noted that physicians are “one of the most trusted sources to administer the vaccine.” To that end, the state is working with the Mass Medical Society to give more primary-care providers the ability to administer the vaccine by the middle of this month.
“This isn’t easy and will require everyone working out the complex storage and scheduling logistics to ensure all doses are put to good use,” Baker said.
All Massachusetts residents ages 16 and up are now eligible to get the vaccine. Residents can schedule an appointment to do so online at mass.gov/covidvaccine or by calling 2-1-1.
The governor said anyone who had been waiting to schedule an appointment should do so now, because there are plenty of slots available statewide.
“There is no more waiting or hassle, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to schedule an appointment, and you can protect yourself, your family and get back to normal by getting vaccinated soon,” he said.
Dr. Paul Biddinger, the chief of the Center for Disaster Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, urged residents to get vaccinated if they have not already done so. All three vaccines cleared for use by the federal government are safe and effective, he said.
“These vaccines are more than 90 percent effective in the real-world settings all together at preventing infection with COVID,” Biddinger said.
“Just in the past couple of weeks, we have seen data that have showed that people over the age of 65 are 94 percent less likely to be hospitalized…if they are fully vaccinated. And in all age groups, we see data that shows that fully vaccinated individuals have a decreased risk of dying, by more than 29 times what it would be if they are un-vaccinated.”
Biddinger also encouraged younger people, who might be reluctant to get vaccinated because they are less likely to be hospitalized or die from the disease than older adults, to get their shots because those younger individuals are still susceptible to long-haul COVID-19.
“Approximately 10 percent of individuals who get infected from COVID may have ongoing symptoms – of respiratory, of cardiac, of neurologic illness – that persists after their acute infection with COVID is over,” he said.
“The best way to avoid these extended symptoms, no matter what age range you are in, is to get vaccinated against COVID.”