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State adding resources to help people make appointments for COVID-19 vaccines

Doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.Eddie Seal/Bloomberg

Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that the state is working to create “additional resources” besides a state website to help eligible people book appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccines, following widespread difficulties with the website that people encountered early Wednesday while trying to set up slots for loved ones aged 75 and over.

Baker, speaking during a State House briefing, said that in addition to the mass.gov/covidvaccinemap site, officials are “working to create additional resources for residents to utilize” to book appointments, and that the state “is working with other public and private organizations that support our seniors across” the state.

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He added, however, that people have had success booking appointments on the site, the problems notwithstanding.

“People were making appointments this morning, and people have made appointments on that site previously,” Baker said. “I guess, with respect to specific issues, those are hard for us to answer.”

But as the process continues to move forward, he said, “we’d certainly urge family members and friends to help support older residents. Help them book their appointments through that website if you can get that done for them.”

He also urged patience amid the rollout.

“If you can’t secure an appointment right away, you need to be patient about that,” he said. “We understand the difficulty that’s attached to that, but keep checking [the] website, and going back to check again on the sites that make the most sense for you.”

He said more time slots “will be added on a rolling basis” as the state gets additional doses of the vaccine.

To that point, he said the Biden-Harris administration informed state officials Tuesday that states should expect to get additional vaccine doses “soon.”

“We’re obviously pleased to learn that this information is coming from the federal government,” he said. “We haven’t received specific details on it yet about the actual size of the increase or the delivery schedule to the Commonwealth. ... But in the meantime, we’re going to plan ahead with the assumption that our new sites will be able to deliver over 300,000 doses each week by mid-February, and anticipate that at some point, we’ll get more guidance from the feds about just what exactly an increase in distribution would mean here in Massachusetts.”

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The state officially embarked on Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccination program on Wednesday, extending eligibility to people 75 and older — the population most devastated by the coronavirus. The approximately 450,000 people in the age cohort are now supposed to be able to register for appointments at scores of immunization sites across the state, with the first shots being administered on Monday.

“I think the biggest challenge we’re going to face on this rollout, and we said this several times, is if demand outstrips supply, which is where we’re going to be for some period of time until the federal government can get to the point where their distribution to us reaches some level that’s consistent with the number of people who are eligible to get vaccinated,” Baker said.

He repeatedly said he understands the process has initially been frustrating.

“It’s going to require a certain amount of patience for people to understand that it may take several trips to the website before they’re going to be able to get an appointment,” Baker said. “And as we said yesterday, we expect that as we build out the capacity here in Massachusetts, unless there is a big change in the federal distribution on this, we do expect that we’re going to end up with more capacity than we have vaccine to serve, which will limit the number of appointments that can be made.”

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He added that roughly 1 million residents in Massachusetts are over the age of 75.

“We’ve gotten less than a million doses since this thing started in December,” Baker said. “We’ve had more than a million hits on the state’s website since this was announced on Tuesday. ... There’s a lot of people here we’re talking about at this point who are eligible and want to make an appointment and we get that. And we’re going to continue to expand our capacity. But if you have a million people who are eligible and you have only received a million doses since this all began in December, you are going to be constrained by supply.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.