Acknowledging that people have been frustrated with the initial rollout of coronavirus vaccines for people 75 and older, Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that new appointment slots will soon be available at various sites around the state.
He said people should keep checking for new slots opening up, and that the state plans to open a call center next week for booking appointments to accommodate people who are having trouble signing up online.
Baker, speaking during a briefing in Plymouth on small business relief grants, said the state’s mass vaccination sites will post a “large number of new appointments” every Thursday.
“However, it’s important to note that based on the number of vaccines that we receive, which this week went from 80,000 to 100,000 for next week in new first doses ... the number of appointments that we’ll be able to make will depend to some extent on the vaccine we get from the feds, and we anticipate and hope that that number will continue to grow,” Baker said.
The Republican acknowledged, as he has previously, that the signup process for appointments on mass.gov/covidvaccinemap has been rife with difficulties.
“It was a very frustrating day [Wednesday], we know that, for everybody, especially for those who were looking for an appointment and couldn’t find one,” Baker said.
He said seven mass vaccination sites should be open around the state within the next 10 days or so.
“Right now there are appointments at Gillette, Fenway Park, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, and the Doubletree [by Hilton Hotel] in Danvers,” Baker said. “And we encourage folks to look for appointments at those sites.”
Baker said that on Wednesday, “Springfield and Danvers posted 10,000 appointments and they were booked within hours. Today Springfield and Danvers posted an additional 15,000 appointments and those are being booked. And Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park posted 20,000 new appointments this morning, and according to the folks at the command center, these appointments are also fully booked.”
He said other vaccination sites, such as those at CVS stores, will post new appointment slots daily.
“They plan to post at the eight sites they currently have in Massachusetts and they’ll be rolling out additional sites over the next 10 days,” Baker said. “Those eight sites can do about 1,150 appointments a day.”
Regarding the planned call center for booking appointments, Baker said the state has ample experience in that arena.
“We’ve been staffing call centers since this pandemic began, and we’ve been staffing them in a pretty big hurry in many cases, on some fairly complicated topics,” Baker said. “We’re pretty good at it. We’re late, but we’re pretty good at it. I don’t worry about whether the call center will be able to serve people appropriately. It will.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat viewed as as a potential 2022 gubernatorial candidate, blasted the Baker administration via Twitter Thursday for not launching the vaccine appointment call center sooner.
“The vaccine call center should have happened yesterday,” Healey tweeted.
Baker during the briefing said the state should be able to administer more than 300,000 doses per week by mid-February.
“We have a growing amount of capacity” to distribute any shots that are shipped from the federal government, he said. “We expect and anticipate we’ll be able to do 305,000 doses, by the 15th of February, a week. That will be some combination of first doses and second doses.”
He said the Biden administration hoped to give states more advance lead time on how many doses they can expect to receive.
“I think their goal is to get us to the point where we will have the ability three weeks in advance [to plan for expected shipments] and that will make a big difference with respect to not only our planning but also appointment scheduling as well,” he said.
Baker also stressed that, despite the online hiccups, tens of thousands of eligible residents had managed to book appointments.
“I do believe that as we continue to expand both our capacity and anticipate an increase in the weekly first-dose supply from Washington, that that will make it possible for more people to ... make appointments, like the 45,000 did in the past few days ... But you’re still talking about a big universe of eligible people,” he said.
“We obviously know everybody is anxious to put this behind them. And, believe me, we know that people want to get their shots as soon as possible. But we are asking people to have a little patience here because, even as we add capacity, there are currently somewhere around a million people, plus or minus, in Massachusetts, who are eligible to get vaccinated,” he said.
“You can do the math and figure out that that might mean it will take a little while for you to have the opportunity to get your first vaccination,” he said.
“That’s why I keep saying: This requires a certain amount of patience and a willingness to come back and check” for appointment slots, he said.
Martin Finucane of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.