BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Some local leaders are speaking out against a new plan from the Baker administration to "streamline" the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the state.
According to the policy which is expected to go into effect on March 1, the state will begin prioritizing vaccine supply for mass vaccination and regional distribution sites, rather than local boards of health for individual cities and towns.
As a result, first doses will no longer be provided to individual communities with clinics that exclusively serve their residents. The state will however distribute second doses to those areas, so anyone who has already received their first shot will get the full vaccination.
The Baker administration said the move comes as "vaccine supply from the federal government remains extremely constrained" during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux said that although the system "sounds like it's a good idea on paper," centralizing the vaccine rollout will actually isolate those who need the most protection from the virus, like "senior citizens [and] people living in poverty."
"They're not going to be able to get [the shot]," Heroux said. "It's very frustrating that this is yet another kind of flap with the handling of Covid in Massachusetts. I mean [the response has] been a complete disaster."
Baker said that although the rollout will shift towards the streamline method, the state's Department of Public Health will still send vaccine supply to 20 municipalities that have "had the greatest Covid burden and the greatest percentage of non-white residents."
The cities and towns included are: Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield and Worcester.
"These [cities and towns] will continue to distribute vaccine at the local level, are prioritized for the retail pharmacy program, and are served by community health centers and other health care providers administering vaccine," Baker's office said.
The administration is now asking local boards of health to encourage their residents to get vaccinated at mass vaccination sites and retail pharmacies that are offering the shot.
They are also asking local governments to increase awareness about the safety of the vaccine, so that if supply increases, communities are ready to resume vaccinating their residents at the local level.