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FEMA To Partner With State To Increase Supply At Hynes Vaccine Site To 7,000 Doses A Day

The entrance to the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)
The entrance to the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)

The federal government will partner with Massachusetts to supersize the Hynes Convention Center mass vaccination site, multiplying the number of doses available each day in an attempt to reach disproportionately impacted communities in the fight against COVID-19, officials announced Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency program will ramp up capacity starting next week when the Boston site becomes part of the federal Community Vaccination Center program. Gov. Charlie Baker's office said FEMA will bring another 6,000 doses per day to the Hynes, which receives about 1,000 doses daily under its existing allocation.

"Massachusetts is a national leader for vaccines and this additional support from the federal government will help to increase access and availability to some of our most disproportionately impacted communities," Baker said. "We are grateful for the support from the Biden-Harris Administration for selecting Massachusetts to host one of these sites and for the support of our congressional delegation in applying for this program."

Under the program, officials will also deploy "mobile units" in Chelsea, Revere and Boston to administer some of the federal doses. Baker's office said it would provide additional details on that effort "soon."

State officials will conduct community outreach to help vulnerable residents sign up for appointments, and the existing pre-registration system will remain in place with "no disruption" as the federal expansion comes online, Baker's office said.

FEMA's partner program focuses on adding capacity in communities facing greater COVID-19 risks and impacts. Officials weighed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's social vulnerability index as one of the key criteria before launching the partnership at the Hynes.

"The goal of establishing these joint federal pilot centers is to continue to expand the rate of vaccinations in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection are not left behind," FEMA Acting Region 1 Administrator and Federal Coordinating Officer Paul Ford, who oversees the agency's New England operations, said in a statement.

A White House fact sheet about the new program at the Hynes noted that 55% of Suffolk County's residents are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC), who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and that the county's poverty rate is more than 19%.

White House COVID Coordinator Jeff Zients on Friday announced Boston as one of three new federally partnered mass vaccination sites, alongside others coming to Newark, New Jersey and Norfolk, Virginia.

"Together, these three new sites are capable of administering 15,000 doses a day," he said at a press briefing.

With expanded resources, the new Community Vaccination Center program will launch on March 31.

The location will be staffed mostly by the federal government, the White House said, while Baker's office said the support staff would remain in place for eight weeks.

The Baker administration applied in February for a FEMA-partnered mass vaccination site. Members of the state's congressional delegation supported the push, writing to FEMA that month urging it to fulfill Baker's request.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a Friday statement that she is "delighted" by the agency's announcement.

"This program will provide the necessary resources and support to complement the ongoing efforts by the Commonwealth to prioritize disproportionately impacted communities that have greatly suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic," Warren said. "I will continue to fight with my partners in the delegation to make sure vaccines are made widely available and administered equitably."

CIC Health, which has been operating the mass vaccination site at the Hynes since it opened March 18, praised FEMA's announcement on Friday.

"That supply influx, which will begin on March 31, will significantly raise the daily vaccination capacity of CIC Health's operations at the Hynes to 7,000 doses per day," the company said. "We are extremely grateful for the additional vaccine supply and the corresponding complement of federal and state staff for the duration of eight weeks."

In addition to the Hynes, Massachusetts is operating six other mass vaccination sites: the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Natick Mall, and the former Circuit City in Dartmouth.

This article was originally published on March 26, 2021.

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