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What you need to know about qualifying medical conditions for the COVID vaccine

People get the COVID-19 vaccination at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel mass vaccination site in Danvers.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Massachusetts is set to open COVID-19 vaccine appointments to adults 65 and older, and people with two or more qualifying medical conditions, as of Thursday. But which comorbidities qualify under the state guidelines, and how will residents know when they can get a vaccine? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about this phase of the state’s vaccination plan:

Which medical conditions make someone eligible for early vaccination?

Massachusetts is using a list of a dozen conditions from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine who will be eligible for early access to the COVID vaccines. There is evidence that these conditions increase a person’s risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. They include: cancer; chronic kidney disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); Down syndrome; heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies); immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant; obesity; severe obesity; pregnancy; sickle cell disease; smoking; and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Baker also announced on Wednesday that moderate-to-severe asthma would be included as an eligible medical condition.

How do I prove I have one or more of these conditions?

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The state is not requiring people to provide medical documentation or proof that they have any of the aforementioned conditions in order to receive early vaccine priority. Instead, eligible recipients will be asked to fill out an online attestation form confirming they meet the criteria. In other words, the state is relying on the honor system.

When will people with two or more of the qualifying conditions be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Baker administration announced Wednesday that vaccinations will open to people over 65 and those with qualifying conditions on Thursday, Feb. 18.

I only have one of these conditions. When can I get the vaccine?

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At the end of Phase 2, after essential workers, individuals with just one of the qualifying medical conditions will be eligible.

I have high blood pressure. Am I eligible for priority access?

No, not in Massachusetts. The CDC maintains a separate list of conditions that “might” increase a person’s risk of severe illness, but under the state’s guidelines, those comorbidities do not qualify anyone for early access to the vaccines.

Along with hypertension or high blood pressure, those additional conditions listed by the CDC include: cerebrovascular disease; cystic fibrosis; neurologic conditions (such as dementia); liver disease; pulmonary fibrosis; thalassemia; and type 1 diabetes mellitus. Also on that list are overweight people and those with a weakened immune system from blood transplant or bone marrow transplant; immune deficiencies; HIV; use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune-weakening medications.


Deanna Pan can be reached at deanna.pan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @DDpan.