Massachusetts expands eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine

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Sanofi Pasteur

“IPV vaccination” by Sanofi Pasteur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Skye Richmond, breaking news editor

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Governor Baker announced residents ages 65 and over and those with two underlying health conditions, including asthma, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in Massachusetts. This continued Phase 2 eligibility period starts Thursday, Feb. 18. 

The new guidelines double the number of people eligible to receive the vaccine, meaning almost an additional 1 million individuals can begin booking appointments. 

After 70,000 appointments were posted on the state website Wednesday morning, 250,000 users overwhelmed the booking portal and caused a series of crashes. Baker announced later in the day more appointments will be made available today. 

Health officials have also re-added moderate-to-severe asthma to the list of comorbidities that make individuals eligible to receive the vaccine under the state’s Phase 2 rollout plan after it was originally left off, causing concerns.  Its readdition comes after state officials, including MA Attorney General Maura Healey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, urged Baker to include asthma in the list amid concerns of the high rates of COVID-19 in environmental justice communities that face poor air quality and high asthma rates.  

“BIPOC communities — like pandemic hotspot Chelsea — have significantly higher rates of asthma. The Baker Administration can and should add asthma to the list of comorbidities that qualify for the vaccine in Phase 2. It’s the smart and just thing to do,” Healey tweeted Feb. 8. 

Residents and staff of affordable- and low-income senior housing also qualify for the vaccine. While vaccinations for elderly residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities became available under Phase One announced in December, low-income housing residents were not eligible. Now, more than 160,000 residents and staff working and living in low-income assisted living facilities can register for vaccination appointments. 

The Office of the Provost and Chancellor announced in an email today that due to change in qualifying medical conditions, members of the Northeastern community need to resubmit Northeastern’s Phase Two attestation form. Previous submissions of the form will be unreliable because of the changes made to eligibility requirements.    

As of Feb. 17, Boston has 56,830 confirmed cases of coronavirus. There have been 53,702 recovered cases and 1,236 deaths. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has administered almost 1,000,000 vaccine doses as of Feb. 18.