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Massachusetts to offer educator-only vaccine days at mass vaccination sites

Vaccine recipients received a pin at the CIC Health COVID-19 vaccination site at the Reggie Lewis Center vaccination site in Boston on Feb. 26.
Vaccine recipients received a pin at the CIC Health COVID-19 vaccination site at the Reggie Lewis Center vaccination site in Boston on Feb. 26.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

In an effort to make coronavirus vaccines more accessible to Massachusetts educators, state officials announced Wednesday they will designate four days at the state’s mass vaccination sites for K-12 teachers, child-care workers, and other school staff members to be vaccinated.

The dates — Saturday, March 27; Saturday, April 3; Saturday, April 10; and Sunday, April 11 — were chosen to support President Biden’s directive for states to vaccinate teachers in an effort to get students back for in-person learning, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration wrote in an announcement.

On those dates, the sites will exclusively administer first doses to K-12 educators, child-care workers, and other school staff members. An estimated 25,000 appointments total will be available for educators on all four days combined, state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said at a press conference Wednesday.

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The state chose dates several weeks out, Baker said, because they hope to have more vaccine supply from the federal government before the educator vaccination days.

“We are going to hope that the enthusiastic projections of some of the folks in D.C. actually come true, that we are going to get finally some of the J & J [Johnson & Johnson] tsunami of vaccines that they committed to when they signed up under the federal program in the first place,” he said.

The news came just one day before educators are slated to become eligible to sign up for their first appointments at the state’s vaccination sites. Baker and other state officials have warned that due to vaccine supply, it could take a month for all school staff members to get their first appointments.

Teachers have also been able to sign up for coronavirus vaccinations at participating pharmacies through a federal pharmacy program. All together, the state estimates that about 400,000 people are eligible for vaccine as an educator, school staff member, or child-care worker.

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“It’s really early to tell whether or not it’s going to be successful,” said Beth Kontos, president of AFT Massachusetts, one of the state’s largest teachers unions.

She said the designated educator vaccinations days are “great,” but they’re not enough.

“Not to get it for April 5,” Kontos said, referring to the date that Massachusetts elementary schools have been mandated to reopen full time for in-person instruction. “April 5 is a blink away.”

Educators who want to sign up for one of the state’s mass vaccination days will have to use the state’s new pre-registration system, which is launching on Friday. The system will put residents in a queue and alert people when they are able to sign up for an appointment.

There are currently seven mass vaccination sites statewide, though an additional one at Hynes Convention Center will be opening on March 18 to take the place of the site at Fenway Park, which is slated to close on March 27.

Other vaccine providers are also being encouraged to host educator-only vaccine days on the same dates as the state, though they can choose alternative dates if they’d prefer. The state’s Command Center is expected to post the schedule next week with all clinics’ educator vaccine days.

In some cities and towns, community partnerships have led to the creation of pop-up clinics and educator-only vaccine days.

Boston Public Schools on Wednesday announced its first vaccine clinic exclusively for educators, bus drivers, bus monitors, administrators, and BPS employees and contractors will open on Sunday. The site will be located at the Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) Gallivan Community Center in Mattapan and is expected to offer about 200 appointments a day.

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Another Boston site for educators is expected to open at the Boston Teachers Union Hall in Dorchester when more vaccines doses are available.

Revere’s Board of Health has partnered with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to offer about 600 vaccines to teachers, early educators, and school staff on Friday, the one-year anniversary of Revere Public Schools closing because of the pandemic. Brockton school and city officials have also partnered to offer 1,500 appointments to educators over the course of three days.

And in Randolph at the Boston Higashi School, a private residential special-needs school that was part of Phase 1 of the state’s vaccination process, Armstrong Ambulance Service of Arlington partnered with school leaders to vaccinate students and staff.

Local vaccine sites tend to be the most efficient and equitable way to distribute vaccine across communities, said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. That’s why she and a coalition of other union leaders hope the state will adopt their proposed vaccine plan, dubbed the “Last Mile Vaccine Delivery Proposal.”

They plan to discuss the plan in a Thursday meeting with Sudders and state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Najimy said, referring to the educator vaccine days, “but it doesn’t really solve the problems that we believe our programs and other locally distributed programs solve.”

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James Vaznis of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.