‘Disturbing’: Baker warns of strangers trying to get vaccine by taking seniors to appointments

BOSTON (WHDH) - One day after Massachusetts rolled out a buddy system aimed at boosting 75-and-over coronavirus vaccinations, Gov. Charlie Baker warned the public to beware of strangers who have been trying to get the vaccine by taking seniors to their appointments.

“We have heard some pretty disturbing reports of some people trying to take advantage of this program already,” Baker said during a news conference at a community health center in East Boston. “Some people are posting online trying to get a senior to bring them to a vaccination site, or in some cases, asking to be paid to drive somebody to one.”

Baker on Wednesday announced that anyone who accompanies a senior over the age of 75 to get the vaccine at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites will be eligible starting Thursday to get a shot themselves.

“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,” Baker said. “Don’t take calls or offers from people you don’t know…And never share your personal information with anyone.”

Anyone who is contacted by a stranger who is offering transportation to a mass vaccination site should immediately contact law enforcement, Baker added.

Only one companion may accompany a senior resident and they can only receive their first dose of the vaccine if the senior is receiving their second dose, according to the state’s companionship program.

Mass vaccination sites, which are currently open at Fenway Park in Boston, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Doubletree Hotel in Danvers, and the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, will make every effort to take both individuals together to minimize wait time, even if the appointment times are not identical.

The decision to incorporate senior companions in the vaccination plan was made in an effort to prevent vaccines from being left idle or going to waste at the end of the day, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.

Baker also addressed an incident at Doubletree Hotel in Danvers on Wednesday when massive lines formed after rumors spread that there were extra doses available to people who had not made appointments.

“In the end, you should be vaccinating the people who have appointments, so that the people who have appointments don’t end up seeing something on their phone or in their email or a text message or something else that says, ‘Oh my, I might not get my vaccine even though I have an appointment,'” Baker said.

As of right now, appointments are only open to seniors over the age of 75. It’s not yet clear when the state plans to move into the second step of Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan.

Baker noted that he understands people are anxious to get vaccinated but he explained the rollout process will progress as the state’s vaccine supply increases.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)