Massachusetts has finalized plans for its first mass coronavirus vaccination site, which will be located at Gillette Stadium, Governor Charlie Baker said Tuesday.
Baker said the first doses would be administered there Thursday for staff and it would be open for first responders on Monday.
The site is expected to start by doing 300 vaccinations per day, but will build up to administering 5,000 vaccines per day and “potentially much bigger numbers than that over time,” Baker said.
The state is in the middle of a phased vaccination campaign that began with front-line health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities. It began Monday to vaccinate first responders at 119 sites around the state.
“These vaccines are safe and effective . . . This is a huge step forward in our fight, and we are progressing in our vaccination plan as we hoped we would,” Baker said.
Baker said that “in the first few days there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from first responders to get vaccinated. The challenge, we hope, will be keeping up with the demand.”
He said the mass vaccination sites had been set up “so that we can quickly ramp up the number of folks who have safe access to a vaccine in a big way as the federal government moves to ramp up their distribution plans. These sites will be available to first responders, as they open, and other eligible individuals later as we move through our vaccine distribution program.”
Baker said more than 209,000 people so far had received doses of the vaccine as of Tuesday, but that number could actually be an underestimate due to reporting delays. The state issues a weekly report on vaccine distribution on Thursdays.
Speaking at a news conference at a first responder vaccination site at the Worcester Senior Center, Baker reiterated familiar public health advice, asking people to wear masks, to avoid gathering in groups, and stay home wherever possible.
“Don’t let your guard down,” he said. “We need to keep this up a little longer.”
Acknowledging that the vaccine rollout had been “bumpy,” Baker said one problem has been a lack of information from federal officials on what to expect regarding vaccine supplies coming to the state.
He said the issue with the federal distribution of vaccines has been, “How much visibility can you give us so that we can plan accordingly with respect to what’s coming next? The last thing we want to do is open up a whole bunch of sites and have a whole bunch of people there and not have vaccine available to actually serve people.”
He said he believed, however, that “as the manufacturing process has ramped up, they’ve gotten better about understanding how much they can expect in their pipeline.”
He said the state would be ready to distribute whatever vaccines it receives from the federal government. “We will move as quickly as the distribution plan moves,” he said.
The Trump administration recommended on Tuesday giving a coronavirus vaccine to everyone 65 and older in the United States, in an effort to accelerate vaccine distribution. Baker said a state advisory group would take a look at the guidance and he would see what they recommended.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.