Two mass COVID-19 vaccination sites will open this week inside vacant storefronts that once housed retail giants: one opening Monday at a former Sears in the Natick Mall, the other at a former Circuit City in Dartmouth on Wednesday.
The Natick location, which will only be open Monday through Friday, will distribute about 500 doses of the vaccine daily, though state officials hope to increase that number to 3,000 doses a day as supply ramps up, according to a release from the state’s Department of Public Health. The Dartmouth site, open seven days a week, will begin with 500 doses per day, then increase to 2,000 over several weeks.
Appointments are required for both locations, which will vaccinate only eligible people. Two groups became eligible earlier late last week: those over the age of 65, and people with two or more medical conditions the state deems high risk, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, and cancer. Front-line health care workers and residents and staff of congregate care facilities became eligible in December.
People coming to the Natick Mall location, near exit 117 on the Massachusetts Turnpike, can park in Garage C and enter the former Sears on level one. The Dartmouth location has a parking lot directly outside the former electronics giant. Both are wheelchair-accessible.
Eligible people can try and make appointments by visiting Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine or by calling 211.
State officials have urged patience and said it may take a month to get everyone in the current eligibility group, about 1 million people, vaccinated.
The two new sites will join four existing mass vaccination locations at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, the DoubleTree in Danvers, and the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.
After a slow start to the vaccination process — which public health officials hope will help the state end restrictions and residents safely return to offices, restaurants, and schools — Massachusetts officials are increasingly relying on large-scale sites to get the vaccine into as many arms as they can.
“The big message we got from the public was, ‘Vaccinate. Vaccinate,’ ” Governor Charlie Baker said at a State House briefing on Wednesday. “And there’s no question the fastest way to do this is with high-volume sites.”
Baker has been widely criticized for the vaccine rollout. At the start of the month, Massachusetts ranked 34th among states in doses administered per capita, a slower-than-anticipated launch. As of Sunday, with Baker’s administration under pressure to hasten vaccinations in recent weeks, that ranking rose to 16th, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early in the process, the state had no centralized clearinghouse to manage appointments, leaving people scrambling to check availability at multiple sites. Then, as the state took a large step toward making 1 million more people eligible for the vaccine last week, its website crashed.
As of Sunday, about 14.9 percent of Massachusetts residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 5.6 percent had gotten two doses, according to the state’s COVID command center.
Hospitals and pharmacies are still distributing more doses than mass vaccination sites.
As of Thursday, the large-scale sites had given out just over 83,000 doses, while hospitals administered 541,740 shots, according to the state’s COVID command center. Pharmacies had given out more than 265,000 doses, and local boards of health another 119,000.
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2043.