Individuals in group residential settings will have access to COVID-19 vaccines next week, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday.
After starting the state's vaccination effort with medical workers, eldercare facilities and then first responders, the state will give groups in residential settings priority starting Monday.
"Distributing vaccines to our residents can't happen fast enough, and we've made enough progress with our frontline health care workers and long-term care residents that we're ready to start inoculating the next group of residents," Baker said Wednesday from the State House during his usual COVID-19 update.
This phase of the state's vaccination plan opens access to most residential congregate care programs, like group homes, residential treatment programs, homeless, domestic violence and veterans shelters and some private special-education schools.
"These facilities are prioritized because they serve vulnerable populations in densely populated settings, which means there is significant risk for contracting COVID-19," Baker said.
The plan also includes 6,400 prisoners and inmates and 4,500 corrections staff. Asked why prisoners in Massachusetts correctional facilities are prioritized for the vaccine over most other vulnerable populations in the general public, Baker said the decision to include inmates in the first wave of congregate care vaccinations is about protecting the most vulnerable.
"From our point of view, congregate facilities are congregate facilities, and we need to make sure that the people who work there and the people who live there, because of the possibility of outbreak and the issues associated with the heightened risk of close quarters and all the rest, that that should be a place where we focus early in this exercise," Baker said.
Congregate care facilities will have three options for accessing the vaccine. Organizations with approved facilities can conduct their own on-site vaccinations of over 200 individuals, facilities can expand existing flu vaccination contracts with health care providers for the new COVID-19 shots or residents can be brought to one of the mass vaccination sites the state plans to open.