BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Phase One Step Two of the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan will start next week, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday.
Gov. Baker said the state's COVID-19 Command Center worked quickly with the state Department of Public Health to safely administer more than 239,000 vaccines to those who needed it first.
"Distributing vaccines to our residents can't happen fast enough," Baker said. "And we've made enough progress with our frontline healthcare workers and long term care residents that we're ready to start inoculating the next group of residents."
Starting Monday, January 18th, Baker said more than 94,000 eligible residents and staff in congregate care facilities, including residential facilities and residential treatment programs, shelter programs, and corrections facilities, will be able to receive the first dose of the two-part coronavirus vaccine.
Baker said congregate care facilities were prioritized because they "serve vulnerable populations and densely populated settings," meaning they are at significant risk for contracting COVID-19.
"The staff are also at high risk for exposure at these facilities," Baker said. "Many of them do amazing work, and it's important that they're vaccinated to protect themselves and their families."
Some of the state's congregate care facilities have already started administering first doses through a federal pharmacy partnership program with CVS and Walgreens, Baker said.
For the approximately 3,500 other congregate care sites, the state has set up three different vaccination options; Organizations can either opt to self-administer the vaccines if they meet certain guidelines, they can use existing pharmacy or provider partnerships that vaccinate staff and residents for the flu each year, or they can use mass vaccination sites, the first of which will launch at Gillette Stadium on Monday.
COVID-19 vaccinations will also start Monday for roughly 6,500 inmates and 4,500 staff at Massachusetts Department of Correction facilities. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, vaccine distribution at DOC facilities will take about three weeks to complete.
"Inmates and staff will both be receiving the Moderna vaccine, and obviously it's voluntary," Sudders said. "Department of Correction inmates will receive their vaccines from WellPath clinicians in the facilities."
Gov. Baker's Administration announced the state's phased roll-out of the free coronavirus vaccine last month. Groups listed in Phase One, which is expected to run between December 2020 and February 2021, in order of priority, are; Clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-facing care, Long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities, Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Congregate care settings (including shelters and corrections,) Home-based healthcare workers, and Healthcare workers doing non-COVID facing care.
In Phase Two, which is expected to span February 2021 to April 2021, the following groups will be vaccinated in order of priority; Individuals with 2+ co-morbidities (high risk for COVID-19 complications,) Early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers, Adults 65+, and individuals with one comorbidity.
In order to further protect vulnerable populations against the virus, Sudders announced Wednesday that residents and staff of public and private low-income and affordable senior housing would also be added to the priority groups included in Phase Two of the state's vaccination timeline.
"This change will ensure approximately 160,000 residents and staff of public and private low-income and affordable senior housing will be able to receive the vaccine once Phase Two begins," Sudders said. "More details on the vaccination options for this group will be available in the coming month as we finalize plans for Phase Two."
In Phase Three, expected to start April 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to the general public.
Written by Brit Smith
(Photo: Getty Images)