Governor Charlie Baker announced this week that Massachusetts is launching a preregistration system for COVID-19 vaccination appointments at the state’s mass vaccination sites in an effort to simplify what has been a chaotic sign-up process for many.
The state has been posting available vaccination appointments at its seven mass vaccination sites weekly on Thursday mornings on its Vaxfinder website, and with the number of available slots varying each week, residents have been competing with each other to snag spots. The Baker administration has been criticized for what many have found to be a complex system mainly accessible to those who have the time and resources to navigate it.
Here’s what you need to know about the new system, which went live early Friday morning.
Who can use it?
Anyone is able to preregister Friday, regardless of eligibility status.
But appointments will only go now to those who are eligible under the state’s phased vaccination plan. Under Phase 2, which Massachusetts is now in, people 65 and older and those with two or more qualifying health conditions are eligible. K-12 educators, staff, and child-care workers became eligible Thursday, and the state announced Wednesday the designation of educator-only vaccine days at mass vaccination sites.
How will it work?
The site mass.gov/COVIDvaccine launched Friday at about 3 a.m.
It operates as a virtual line that alerts vaccine-eligible residents when they can book an appointment. People can also preregister by calling 211. The preregistration form allows family members, caregivers, or others to sign up on behalf of someone else, the Baker administration said in a statement.
Those who are eligible can complete an online form on the state’s website to request an appointment at a mass vaccination site, according to the state.
The form asks for contact information and details about the applicant’s eligibility for the vaccine, and they can choose whether they want to be texted, e-mailed, or called for appointment updates. For those who choose text and e-mail, they will be sent a link to choose an appointment at a mass vaccination site. Those who prefer a phone call will receive information about how to schedule the appointment, according to the state’s website. After preregistering, applicants will get weekly updates on their status. The status update will allow residents to confirm they still want to be on the list or opt out of the process.
When an appointment becomes available, the applicant will be notified and have 24 hours to accept. The appointments will be offered based on an applicant’s eligibility and the availability of appointments at a nearby mass vaccination site. Residents will only be matched with the site that’s closest to them. They’ll be able to choose from a number of appointment times.
“People should just check the website, and it will be there,” Baker said Thursday. . “There is a first-come, first-served element to it, but remember, it’s also going to try to make sure that it sends you to a place that’s consistent with your geography based on available appointments at that location.”
Anyone who does not accept the appointment within 24 hours will be moved back in line to wait for another appointment.
On Wednesday, Baker said it will still take “several weeks” for eligible residents to be notified that an appointment is available because the state receives limited doses from the federal government. He added on Thursday that the first notices about available vaccine appointments will likely start going out next week to eligible residents for slots that can be booked at the end of the week.
Starting Friday eligible people can preregister for a vaccine at the 7 mass vaccination locations.— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) March 10, 2021
You'll be contacted with an opportunity to book an appointment based on availability in your area, but due to limited supply, it may take several weeks.
➡️ https://t.co/k1t5eFXwfc pic.twitter.com/6nIkJKm9eV
Where will I get the vaccination after preregistering?
On the preregistration site, appointments are only available at the state’s seven mass vaccination sites: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Fenway Park in Boston (which will move to the Hynes Convention Center on March 27), the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Natick Mall in Natick, the former Circuit City in Dartmouth, and the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers.
More vaccination sites will be added to the system next month, Baker said.
What information will I need to provide to preregister?
The preregistration website requests a resident’s name, address, date of birth, contact information, preference for communication by e-mail, text, or phone, and information about eligibility, which may include a resident’s living situation, occupation, and medical conditions, according to the state’s website.
How will signing up for appointments work in the coming weeks?
The preregistration system will replace Vaxfinder for booking at mass vaccination sites when it launches Friday.
Appointments at mass vaccination sites went live through the Vaxfinder system Thursday morning as usual, Baker said, but Thursday was the last day that appointments were to be scheduled through that site.
Residents will still be able to use Vaxfinder, https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/, to book appointments at other sites, such as pharmacies, hospitals, and community health centers.
In what order will be preregistration applicants be taken?
Massachusetts so far has announced the date that the priority groups in Phase 2 become eligible a few days to a week before those in the groups are allowed to sign up.
On Thursday, K-12 educators, staff, and child-care workers became eligible to book appointments. Next to become eligible in in Phase 2 are essential workers such as grocery store, transit, sanitation, and restaurant workers, followed by people with one qualifying health condition. Phase 3, which state officials estimate will begin in April, includes the general public.
Matt Stout of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Breanne Kovatch contributed to this report.