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State Lawmakers Urge Baker To Create More Streamlined Vaccination Sign-Up System

Lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated with the Baker administration's vaccine rollout plan and the widespread issues adults 75 and older face to secure appointments online.

Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, filed a bill Thursday ordering the Department of Public Health to create a one-stop online portal that is more accessible as soon as possible.

A group of eight state representatives wrote to Baker late Wednesday night to flag what Rep. Tami Gouveia described as "deep concerns" with the distribution, citing issues with the appointment website, insufficient support for municipalities and other organizations, and the Department of Public Health's communication patterns.

Expecting older adults to use a single state-run website to secure appointments, they wrote, "ignores the digital divide experienced by many of our seniors, people with limited English proficiency, those who are hearing and/or visually impaired, those without family members nearby, those without access to broadband, and other populations who have been historically marginalized due to income, age, or immigration status."

The second phase of the administration's distribution plan begins Monday when adults 75 years old and above will gain eligibility to receive vaccines. Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this week directed those residents to seek appointments online, then urged patience as reports grew about the lack of available time slots or difficulties navigating the site.

Sen. Harriette Chandler, 84, said Wednesday that she struggled to find an appointment for herself.

"Take it from this grandmother, online-only appointment booking is difficult for older people," Chandler tweeted. "Over the past year I thought I've gotten pretty decent at managing this new digital world. Well... the state's vaccine website proved me wrong!"

The administration said 10,000 appointments were posted in Springfield and Danvers on Wednesday and were filled within hours. On Thursday, Springfield and Danvers made another 15,000 appointments available, and Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park posted a total of 20,000 appointments. CVS Health will post 1,152 new appointments daily across eight sites, for a total of 8,000 per week, the administration said.

Baker said locations that can administer vaccine doses are adding appointments to an online portal as they become available. The state's mass vaccination sites, including those already running at Gillette, Fenway and others soon to come online, will also start posting times every Thursday for the week ahead.

With more than 1 million people eligible to acquire a vaccine at the start of phase two and only 100,000 doses set to arrive from the federal government next week, Baker warned "it will take a little while" for many residents to get the immunization.

In a press conference Thursday, he said the administration is working to make more resources available, including a call center, and will have "more to say about this next week."

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