By Matthew Meusel
Boston University News Service
BOSTON — With more than 2 million residents already vaccinated against COVID-19, anyone 16 years or older in Massachusetts is now eligible for an appointment as the state’s vaccination efforts continue.
The new age groups became eligible earlier this week, adding 1.7 million people to the state’s vaccine eligibility pool. According to the CDC, nearly 50% of the state’s 6.8 million residents have received at least one dose so far, a rate Gov. Charlie Baker said he is proud of. The state is still dependent on supplies shipped in from the federal government.
“We’re working to get doses to eligible people as fast as we can, but how fast we move will continue to depend on how fast we get doses from our friends in Washington,” Baker said during a press conference.
Baker noted that it could take a number of weeks before everyone gets their vaccine shot.
Moderna and Pfizer will be the only vaccines available for Massachusetts residents after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was put on hold last week due to concerns over its potential side effects. Baker said that the system in place with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is working and that the state will continue with it.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much real-life data we have that demonstrates that folks who get vaccinated in large numbers present fewer cases and much fewer hospitalizations than they were just a few months ago,” Baker said.
As of April 18, there were 704 hospitalizations for COVID-19, with at least 163 people in intensive care units, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
According to Baker, information technology staff are also on standby, given the influx of people scheduling appointments online. The move comes following mid-February when the state’s appointment website crashed and did not allow thousands of residents to schedule an appointment, even though officials said some had become available.
Those issues have been worked out, Baker said, with work having been done to make sure a similar crash does not happen again.
“Our tech team continues to work hard to improve our website and user experience and is prepared for the influx in traffic that will occur before and on the 19 [of April],” Baker said.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, anyone under the age of 18 will only be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. The department also signaled that it may not be easy to register for an appointment.
“Due to high demand and very limited supply, it may take several weeks to schedule an appointment or to be notified that an appointment is available,” the department’s website said.