After months of agonizing waits online to book appointments, lines at clinics that sometimes kept people out in the cold for long stretches, and the occasional mad rush for leftover doses, residents can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine at hundreds of sites across the state without scheduling a slot, Massachusetts officials said Wednesday.
Six mass vaccination sites will begin offering walk-up appointments Monday, Governor Charlie Baker said at a vaccine site at the Encore casino in Everett.
“This could be a great new chapter to the program overall, and paired with that targeted community-based effort that we’re pursuing like this one here at Encore, we should be able to reach many more of our residents and build on the national leading success we’ve had in distributing vaccine so far,” he said.
Walk-up appointments will be available at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, the former Circuit City in Dartmouth, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, and the Natick Mall.
Four of the state’s mass clinics— Gillette Stadium, the DoubleTree in Danvers, the Hynes, and the Natick Mall — are slated for closure by the end of June.
“The sites will stay open to make sure that everyone who got their first dose can come back and get a second,” Baker said. “But for now, we continue to close in on that goal of getting 4 million people done. The walk-up option will certainly make it easier for people to access vaccines.”
CVS Health announced Monday it is accepting walk-up vaccine appointments at its pharmacies across the country, including 389 locations in Massachusetts. Company spokesman Matt Blanchette said the pharmacy chain has administered more than 17 million shots.
“Second dose compliance is more than 90 percent at CVS Health locations,” he said by email.
Walmart and Sam’s Club are now offering vaccines in their more than 5,100 pharmacy locations nationwide.
“Now that supply and eligibility have expanded, it’s even more important for us to reach underserved and vulnerable populations to ensure equitable distribution,” Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president for health and wellness, said in a statement. “Widespread vaccination is the only way we will eventually end the pandemic and help our country reopen, and we don’t want anyone to get left behind as we enter this new chapter in our fight against COVID-19.”
Marylou Sudders, the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary, said the Encore clinic is part of a regional collaborative that will receive close to 6,000 doses a week.
“I know you will get every one of those doses into someone’s arm,” she said.
Baker said people can also visit the state’s Vaxfinder website to book an appointment if they have been waiting for the rush to subside before jumping in.
“There are over 800 sites available statewide,” Baker said. “And as we all know, the vaccine is safe, effective, and it’s free. It’s been rigorously tested, and millions of people have received the vaccine.”
More than 85 percent of people over the age of 75 has been vaccinated in Massachusetts, leading to sharp declines in coronavirus cases among that cohort, he said.
“Those most senior among us are no longer the folks who are being counted in our case counts, ending up hospitalized, or fighting for their lives for the most part,” Baker said. “It’s been an extraordinary process to watch play out in real time.”
Overall, 70 percent of adults have received a first dose of the vaccine, Baker said.
“And that doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of people who are scheduled to get a first shot,” he said. “And I think in Massachusetts people have demonstrated that they’re interested in getting it, and that the network we put together for them for the most part is working.”
“I think the most important thing we can do is to remind people over and over again that it is enormously safe, clearly effective,” he added.