BOSTON (WHDH) – When the first round of COVID-19 vaccines get shipped to Massachusetts later this month, the initial doses will be administered to health care workers, and staff and residents at long-term living facilities, among other frontline workers during Phase 1 of the state’s distribution timeline, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday.

“Providing this group with the vaccine first will protect them from exposure and ensure that they can continue to provide health care to others safely,” Baker said during a news conference at the State House. “Then vaccines will be distributed to our most vulnerable residents.”

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The state’s first shipment of 59,475 doses of the Pfizer vaccine was ordered from the federal government last week and it will be delivered directly to 21 Bay State hospitals across eight counties, as well as to the Department of Public Health Immunization lab starting around Dec. 15, according to Baker.

Doses will then be redistributed for access to 74 hospitals across all of the state’s 14 counties for frontline medical workers, Baker said. The next 40,000 doses of the vaccine will be allocated to the Federal Pharmacy Program to begin vaccinating staff and residents of skilled nursing facilities, rest homes, and assisted living residences.

Massachusetts is expecting 300,000 initial doses of the two-dose vaccine by the end of December.

Baker noted that the vaccine is “being prioritized for these groups to maximize life preservation and to support the health care system” and that doses will be distributed in a four-phase approach.

The state hopes to receive and distribute more than 2 million doses to priority population groups, including communities of color, by the end of March, according to Baker.

Phase 2 of distribution will include people over the age of 65 and people with two or more comorbidities.

The vaccine is not expected to be made available to the general public until Phase 3 in April.

The state’s anticipated vaccination phases and timeline is as follows:

Phase One (December 2020-February 2021):

In order of priority

  • Clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-facing care
  • Long term care facilities, rest homes, and assisted living facilities
  • Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services
  • Congregate care settings (including shelters and corrections)
  • Home-based healthcare workers
  • Healthcare workers doing non-COVID facing care

Phase Two (February 2021-April 2021):

In order of priority

  • Individuals with 2+ comorbidities (high risk for COVID-19 complications)
  • Early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers
  • Adults 65+
  • Individuals with one comorbidity

Phase Three (April 2021 and on):

  • Vaccine available to general public

The first shipments of the vaccine are expected to contain doses manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, but Massachusetts will not distribute them until the FDA approves them for emergency use, according to Baker.

Each dose of the vaccine will be administered about three to four weeks apart, depending upon whether a person is given a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“The vaccine will be provided free of charge to all individuals, and insurance companies will not charge any out of pocket costs or co-payments,” Baker explained.

Pfizer and BioNTech previously reported the shots appeared 95 percent effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease.

When asked if he would be among the first to get vaccinated, Baker stated, “I have zero interest in cutting the line, okay. I’m not 65. I’m 64.”

Baker also urged residents to continue wearing masks and taking precautions because the vaccine takes about six weeks to provide immunity, according to Dr. Paul Biddinger, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Disaster Medicine.

“What we know about vaccines is that they dramatically lower your risk of needing hospitalization or dying. They protect you,” Biddinger said. “What we don’t know is whether they completely prevent you from getting a low-level infection or transmitting the illness.”

Biddinger also said that people who have already had COVID-19 should not shy away from getting vaccinated.

The details on the distribution plan come one day after Baker announced a rollback of the state’s reopening plan due to a surge in new coronavirus cases.

While the vaccines offer light at the end of the tunnel, Baker said Tuesday, “we cannot simply wait for the vaccine to get here.”

Due to a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases and virus-related hospitalizations since Thanksgiving, Baker decided to move back the state’s reopening plan to Step I of Phase III because the surge is straining hospitals across the Commonwealth.

All hospitals will also curtail some elective procedures beginning on Friday to free up beds for virus patients and alleviate pressure on health care workers.

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