• Kaveesh Pathak

‘Lives are at risk’: Residents, lawmakers frustrated over state’s new vaccine buddy program

BOSTON (WHDH) - Lawmakers from across the state are voicing their concerns about a new policy allowing younger residents to get vaccinated if they accompany an adult 75 and older to a mass vaccination site.

State Rep. Tami Gouveia and 20 others penned a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, writing that the companion system will result in as many as half of doses at mass vaccination sites going to “healthy adults” rather than to older residents or any of the other vulnerable populations who do not yet qualify.

“Vaccinations given to healthy, thriving adults will delay the ability of the state to vaccinate the hundreds of thousands of seniors 65 and older who still need to be vaccinated right now, leading to increased morbidity and death among our elders, especially those who are not able to rely on a companion to drive them and do not have access to a car,” the letter read.

Gouveia added that, “This companion system really just eliminates any of the prioritization that we’ve gone through and it flies in the face of what the CDC recommends in terms of who is priority, why they are priority. Lives are at risk.”

They also addressed concerns about people soliciting seniors 75 years and older on sites like Craigslist and Facebook in order to get the vaccine.

“We have already seen our seniors targeted by scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment,” the lawmakers wrote to Baker. “This could open up additional opportunities for individuals with mal-intent to prey upon seniors who are desperate to get the vaccine and lack the transportation to do so themselves, or, whoa re desperate for additional financial support and will accept compensation for bringing a complete stranger along as their companion.”

Baker said during a press conference Thursday that anyone who is contacted by a stranger offering transportation to a mass vaccination site should immediately call law enforcement.

“If you’re somebody who is 75 years or older and you need assistance going through the vaccination process, you should only reach out to somebody that you know or trust to bring you as your companion,” he said. “Don’t take calls or offers from people you don’t know…And never share your personal information with anyone.”

Along with the companion system, lawmakers say they are frustrated with the company Curative, which is running the mass vaccination sites in Danvers and Springfield. This week, seniors waited in the snow and cold to get vaccinated at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.

The National Guard was called in to help administer vaccines and get patients inside the building or their cars to wait for their appointment. Long lines also formed in Danvers Wednesday when word got out that they had hundreds of extra doses.

“They claim that they’re public health leaders and that they’re leaders in the logistics,” Gouveia said, “but we’ve seen nothing but problem after problem with the site that they’re managing.”

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