Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday the state will launch “Red Sox Week” at the mass vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center beginning next week in an effort to encourage residents in the state’s 20 cities and towns disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to get their shots.
Starting on April 19, when all Massachusetts residents 16 and older become eligible to book vaccination appointments, and running through April 25, 20,000 first-dose slots at the convention center will be reserved for those disproportionately impacted by the virus, Baker said.
Groups including the Red Sox Foundation, El Mundo, The BASE, Archipelago Strategies Group, Health Care For All, and the Boston Public Health Commission will help residents book appointments for that week, and those that go unfulfilled will be booked through the state’s preregistration system.
“All of these organizations have a strong presence in the state’s 20 disproportionately impacted communities, and are working hard to get more people and households out to get their shots,” Baker said.
The state has previously identified the 20 hardest-hit cities and towns (listed in alphabetical order) as Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester.
The initiative will include Spanish- and English-speaking staff and volunteers and signs in Spanish to help direct visitors through the registration and vaccination process. There will also be Red Sox-themed attractions, Baker said, including a selfie station, a display of the team’s trophies, socially distanced visits with team mascot Wally the Green Monster, and a raffle to win tickets to a Red Sox game.
“We understand the vaccination process can sometimes be stressful for some individuals, especially those who come from communities that have been hit hard by the virus,” Baker said. “Our goal is to encourage more people to come to Boston with family and neighbors to get vaccinated together, and to also create an experience in Spanish from beginning to end.”
Baker was joined at the briefing by Sam Kennedy, president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox; Robert Lewis, Jr., founder and president of The BASE, a nonprofit program that offers children training for baseball, softball, and basketball, while also providing educational and career opportunities; and Alberto Vasallo, the president and CEO of El Mundo Boston.
“Our young folks families, alumni, coaches, and staff, deserve access to the vaccine,” Lewis said during the briefing, as he reflected on his own battle with COVID-19 last year that left him on a ventilator for 12 days. “This is very important. It that shows the power of government, sports, institutions, academia, and community comes together, we can do big things.”
While speaking at the briefing, Vasallo said he is asking for help in convincing members of the Latino community to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“In my community, there is still far too many concerns, doubts, and apprehensions about getting vaccinated,” he said.
Baker also said during the briefing that he did not expect Massachusetts’ vaccination effort to be significantly hampered by the state’s pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations on the recommendation of federal officials, to allow for investigation of a rare blood clotting issue.