Governor Charlie Baker said his administration should not again resort to inviting civilians to be vaccinated with unused doses at state sites reserved for first responders, suggesting Wednesday that the decision to offer hundreds of shots at the State Police headquarters was not the “right way.”
State officials invited nearly 300 civilians on three separate days in late January and February to receive a shot at the Massachusetts State Police facility in Framingham, the Globe reported Tuesday.
Baker administration officials had defended the move, saying they had extra doses at a clinic initially reserved for front-line responders and, in at least one instance, faced “limited time” to find arms to put them in before they would be wasted.
The decision to offer the unidentified civilians shots stoked concerns about how equitable the administration of doses was as some people — by virtue of their availability or having placed a phone call to the administration seeking help — were given access to a law enforcement vaccination site where members of the general public could not independently book a slot.
Baker reiterated Wednesday that the 292 civilians were either over the age of 75 or personal care attendants, all of whom were eligible to receive a vaccine. But the governor, who previously said sites shouldn’t offer a “cattle call” for extra, unused shots, said the state has “better protocols now” to avoid doing it again.
“I don’t expect or anticipate that we’ll be seeing that sort of activity or that sort of behavior in the future. And we shouldn’t. We don’t need to,” Baker said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday. “We understand more about how to handle this and . . . we continue to learn the right way to do a number of things. And that’s one more.”
State officials said they could not identify any of those who received vaccinations, citing medical privacy laws, and instead offered only a broad accounting of how they identified them. Baker’s public safety staff contacted people “known to them,” officials said, including residents who had contacted the administration’s constituent services office in late January seeking help to book an appointment because they couldn’t do so online.
A spokeswoman for Baker said none of those vaccinated were invited by the governor or Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
Neither the State Police headquarters nor two other State Police facilities used to administer vaccines are listed by the state among its publicly available sites. Baker has for weeks asked members of the public for patience as they seek out appointments while demand for the vaccines overwhelmingly outstripped the state’s rolling federal supply.
About 175 of those vaccinated at the State Police headquarters were personal care attendants, or PCAs, who help low-income residents with disabilities and chronic illness live independent lives. State officials also did not describe how they selected certain PCAs to receive a vaccine.
Tim Foley — the executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents the workers — said in a statement Wednesday it has worked with the state and other community groups to ensure its members, the majority of whom are women or women of color, are vaccinated. He praised the state’s effort to make sure they and residents over the age of 75 were inoculated.
“We were happy to see that when a surplus of vaccines was made available, they went to frontline workers and elderly patients who are currently eligible, not go to waste,” Foley said.