Baker announces Mass. educators can begin signing up for COVID-19 vaccine next week

GLOUCESTER , MASS. (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced that Massachusetts educators will be eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments beginning next week.

Baker made the announcement at West Parish Elementary School in Gloucester just one day after President Joe Biden directed states to prioritize vaccinating all educators during the month of March.

The news prompted Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken to break out in cheers.

When appointments are released on March 11, roughly 400,000 K-12 teachers, childcare workers, and school staff will be able to sign up for a vaccination appointment at any of the 170 sites opened to eligible residents, Baker said.

RELATED: Baker: ‘No plans’ to lift mask mandate in Massachusetts

In addition, the Command Center will designate specific days at mass vaccination sites for educators to get their shot.

Baker said Biden’s announcement totally caught his administration off guard.

“We were on the phone with the Biden administration for over an hour yesterday and this didn’t come up at all,” Baker said.

Baker had previously opted not to move teachers up in the vaccination rollout because he feared they could compete with older residents and those with health issues for coveted appointment slots, which have already overwhelmed the state’s VaxFinder website.

People over the age of 65 years and those 16 years and older with two or more certain medical conditions, which can be found here, are also eligible for the vaccine in the Bay State, which represents about a million residents.

“We currently get about 150,000 first doses per week from the federal government,” Baker said. “The message governors got yesterday was that we should not expect a significant increase in supply until the end of March; therefore, it will probably take awhile for all the folks who are apart of this eligibility group to work their way through the system.”

RELATED: Baker: Residents ‘need to be patient’ because increased vaccine shipment likely weeks away

The Baker administration estimates that it will take a month for all eligible residents to secure a first appointment due to the constrained federal supply and the existing population permitted to get a vaccine.

On Tuesday, Biden said 30 states had prioritized educators for vaccinations and directed the others to do the same, saying he wanted “every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March.”

Biden announced that the federal government would help in the effort to vaccinate teachers through its partnership with retail pharmacies.

CVS pharmacies in Mass. opened up vaccine appointments Wednesday morning to teachers K-12, daycare and preschool workers, and staff under Biden’s direction.

Baker had faced criticism for not prioritizing teachers as he pushed for in-person learning.

Mass. Teacher Association President Merrie Najimy released a statement directed at Baker Tuesday that read, “It is time to get with the program. Make school employees eligible now.”

She went on to a hold a press conference Wednesday after Baker’s announcement, calling it a “huge victory.”

RELATED: ‘Huge victory’: President of Mass. Teachers Association applauds decision to add educators to vaccine eligibility list

“I can tell you as a 30 year educator that today is a joyful day for educators across the state,” Najimy said. “This is a huge victory for our students, our school employees, our entire school community.”

Teachers don’t have to wait until next week to get the vaccine if they can secure an appointment through CVS, Baker added.

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