• Kaveesh Pathak

Massachusetts lawmakers rail against rocky vaccine rollout for seniors

By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service Jan 28, 2021

Lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated with the Baker administration's vaccine rollout plan and the widespread issues adults 75 and older face to secure appointments online.

A group of eight representatives wrote to Baker late Wednesday night to flag what state Rep. Tami Gouveia described as "deep concerns" with the distribution, citing issues with the appointment website, insufficient support for municipalities and other organizations, and the Department of Public Health's communication patterns.

Expecting older adults to use a single state-run website to secure appointments, they wrote, "ignores the digital divide experienced by many of our seniors, people with limited English proficiency, those who are hearing and/or visually impaired, those without family members nearby, those without access to broadband, and other populations who have been historically marginalized due to income, age, or immigration status."

The second phase of the administration's distribution plan begins Monday when adults 75 years old and above will gain eligibility to receive vaccines. Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this week directed those residents to seek appointments online, then urged patience as reports grew about the lack of available time slots or difficulties navigating the site. State Sen. Harriette Chandler, 84, said Wednesday that she struggled to find an appointment for herself.

"Take it from this grandmother, online-only appointment booking is difficult for older people," Chandler tweeted. "Over the past year I thought I've gotten pretty decent at managing this new digital world. Well... the state's vaccine website proved me wrong!"

Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy plan to make a small business grant announcement at noon Thursday, where they will likely face additional questions about vaccine access.

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