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'It's About Time': All Massachusetts Residents Become Eligible For The Vaccine Monday01:41
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A man walks toward the entrance for the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Natick Mall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A man walks toward the entrance for the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Natick Mall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

On Monday, when all Massachusetts residents become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Quincy resident Iris O'Connor said she'll probably feel a mix of emotions.

On one hand, she said she'll feel optimism because a lot of people who have been anxious to get the vaccine now qualify. On the other hand, she wonders why the thing that could have saved her mom's life wasn't made available sooner in Massachusetts.

"It's about time. Seeing how things have progressed in Massachusetts versus Florida where my mother died, it kinda messes with your head a little bit," O'Connor, who's already vaccinated, said. "I have a perception based on what I've been reading on social media that, strangely enough, folks are having an easier time in Florida getting vaccination appointments than in Massachusetts."

In fact, vaccines were available to all Floridians nearly two weeks ago. Gov. Charlie Baker has been criticized for Massachusetts' vaccine rollout, not to mention the technological snafus that hampered earlier phases of the vaccine sign-up.

"I think many states chose to pursue a variety of different approaches to this which makes it hard to draw really broad comparisons between states," the governor said back in February. "As I said in my remarks, Massachusetts chose early on to prioritize a number of communities and a number of professions that weren't prioritized in other states that did make us look, if you just based it on the numbers, like a low performer relative to many other states that didn't focus on those hard-to-reach populations that we chose to focus on."

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, which has four vaccination sites and several popup locations, has been steeling itself for Monday. Chief Operating Officer Greg Wilmot said as long as the vaccine has been available, they've been responding to clients' concerns.

"Right now, we've been fielding a lot of questions about Johnson & Johnson," he said, referring to the pause in that vaccine's usage. "And folks should know we have other vaccines available."

Wilmot said East Boston Neighborhood Health Center is anticipating 1,500 people per day this week. On Monday, the state says an additional 1.7 million people become eligible. David Leung, of Somerville, is one of them, but he won't be vaccinated right away. He has an appointment for next week and he's OK with that.

"It's kinda funny because I'm not a sports person, but the thing I keep remembering is the Super Bowl with the Pats down in the third quarter," Leung said. "It's never over til it's over. And what's another nine days this far into the pandemic?"

With over two million Massachusetts residents fully vaccinated and nearly as many halfway vaccinated, the light at the end of the tunnel may feel nigh. But with many health experts now talking about the possible need for a booster shot, that tunnel may be longer than we thought. East Boston Neighborhood Health Center's Greg Wilmot said he's not thinking much about that.

"Right now we're very much focused on making sure that we are providing first doses for hardest hit communities," he said.

Iris O'Connor, the Quincy resident whose mom died of COVID last summer, said she hopes people get vaccinated now that they'll be eligible. She hasn't had a funeral for her mom yet and doesn't want more people to have to endure such loss.

"If the vaccine can prevent that, then I'm going to encourage it 'til kingdom come," O'Connor said.

This segment aired on April 19, 2021.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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