By SCOTT JACKSON
Massachusetts is now allowing younger people to get their COVID-19 shots if they accompany residents over the age of 75 to certain vaccination sites.
Effective Thursday, individuals accompanying residents ages 75 and up can now schedule their own appointment to get vaccinated on the same day at the state’s mass vaccination sites. There are presently four such sites open in the state: Fenway Park in Boston, the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the Danvers location, Gov. Charlie Baker said allowing residents over the age of 75 to take companions with them will encourage people in that age group to get vaccinated.
“Some residents may be hesitant to go to a mass vaccination site alone or may have difficulty getting to a site,” Baker said.
“We hope this will encourage more 75 and older residents to get their vaccines at mass vaccination sites, which have the most availability and are best suited to provide safe access for our older residents.”
During the press conference, Baker was asked why the state was allowing companions to get the vaccinated rather than moving to the next step in the vaccination program, in which residents over the age of 65 and those with two or more comorbidities that put them at high-risk can get vaccinated. The governor said those over the age of 75 are “far more likely to lose their life or get hospitalized as a result of COVID,” than other groups.
“We want to make sure we make it as easy as we possibly can for folks who fall into that over 75 category to get vaccinated and to get vaccinated early in this process,” he said.
Baker added that many residents between the ages of 65 and 74, “have been the companion who have shown up at these sites with the people who are 75 or older,” and have asked about getting the vaccines for themselves.
In addition, the governor said people within the senior community had suggested allowing residents over the age of 75 to take companions with them because people in that age group feel they are putting a burden on loved ones by asking for assistance getting to a mass vaccination center. Allowing that companion to get vaccinated lessens the perceived burden.
Marylou Sudders, the state’s health and human services secretary, said residents in the 75-plus age group who want to take someone with them to one of the locations should reach out to a family member or friend and not agree to go with a stranger.
“Please do not accept calls offering assistance from someone you do not know or you do not trust to take you to a vaccination appointment,” Sudders said. “We encourage you, as the person eligible for the vaccine, to reach out to your companion – a family member or caregiver – about accompanying you to the mass vaccination program.”
To book an appointment, a companion can go online to mass.gov/covidvaccine and schedule two separate appointments at either the same time or adjacent time slots. The caretaker should select the option “I am accompanying someone who is age 75+ to their vaccination appointment and my appointment is the same day.”
Individuals can also call 2-1-1 if they have trouble with internet access.
Mass vaccination locations will make every effort to take both individuals together to minimize wait time, even if the appointment times are not identical, Baker said.
Only one companion is allowed to schedule an appointment with the resident over the age of 75. A companion can receive their first vaccine dose if the person they are accompanying is receiving their second dose.
Baker on Wednesday also announced two more mass vaccination centers would open later this month. Both will be open to all eligible Massachusetts residents.
The first new mass vaccination site will open at the Natick Mall on Feb. 22. It will have initial capacity for 500 vaccinations a day, which will increase to 3,000 daily doses over several weeks.
The second new site is at Circuit City in Dartmouth and will open on Feb. 24. The site will have capacity for 500 doses at first, which will scale up to 2,000 daily doses.
Residents will be able to book appointments for both sites starting Feb. 18.