Massachusetts is preparing to open its first mass coronavirus vaccination site at Gillette Stadium
Gov. Charlie Baker said the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be administered at the stadium Thursday to staff with the site open for first responders beginning Monday.
"Gillette plans to start out doing 300 vaccines per day, but is going to build up to administering 5,000 vaccines per day and potentially much bigger numbers over time, said Baker.
Gillette Stadium, located in Foxboro, roughly halfway between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, is the third NFL stadium in the country to open for mass COVID-19 vaccinations – the first in the Northeast.
Baker said arrangements to stand up more regional mass vaccination sites are in the works.
"We now have what I would call a template that we developed with the folks at Gillette and we are now in live discussions with folks in other parts of Massachusetts about using that template in other locations and I am hopeful we'll have more to say about that in a day or two," Baker said Wednesday.
Massachusetts is in the first part of a three-phase vaccination rollout. It began in December with COVID-19 facing healthcare workers followed by residents and staff of long-term care facilities. This week police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders became eligible.
Starting next week, the state plans to make doses of vaccine available to residents and staff at congregate housing which includes group homes, shelters for the homeless, veterans, and victims of domestic violence, state prisons, and local jails.
"These facilities are prioritized because they serve vulnerable populations in densely populated settings putting them at significant risk for contracting COVID-19," said Baker. "The staff are also at high risk for exposure...it is important they are vaccinated to protect themselves and their families."
Baker said about 94,000 people will be eligible to receive the vaccine under this next step in the phased rollout.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that the coronavirus vaccine should be given now to everyone 65 and older. Baker said Massachusetts, for now, will stick with its vaccine rollout schedule that would have seniors eligible probably sometime next month.
Massachusetts issues a weekly vaccine distribution report on Thursdays. The latest report showed 209,000 people have received a vaccine dose.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said this week that his administration is scouting up to 10 sites in the city that could host mass vaccination clinics.
A committee of healthcare professionals and community leaders called the “Vax Force” was scheduled to meet for the first time this week to begin strategic planning to promote COVID-19 vaccinations to the general public.
"This is to get information out and educate the public, to legitimize, and add credibility to the importance of taking this vaccine," said Sarno.
Springfield recorded 1,177 new COVID-19 cases last week – the highest single week total since the start of the pandemic, said the city’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Helen Caulton-Harris.
"We recognize there is a surge across the nation and certainly in the city of Springfield," said Caulton-Harris. " We recognize that community spread is with us. It is all over the place. It is pervasive."
There were 10 additional COVID-19 deaths in Springfield last week bringing the city’s total to 168 since March.