As Fenway Park prepares to welcome back players, coaches and a limited number of fans next month for the start of the new baseball season, the home of the Red Sox will be saying goodbye to the patients who have been churning through the turnstiles of the iconic ballpark since early February for more than peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

More than 25,000 shots of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered at Fenway Park in recent weeks, and officials said that by the end of this month they expect over 55,000 vaccinations to have been completed under the grandstands.

But Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that by the time the first pitch of the new season is thrown on April 1, all vaccination efforts at one of the state’s seven mass vaccination sites will have been relocated not far away to the Hynes Convention Center in the Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

The mass vaccination site at the Hynes will open on March 18, the governor said, and Fenway will take its last patient on March 27, providing some overlap. Anyone scheduled for a second dose at Fenway after the park closes will have their appointment honored at the convention center.

“The fundamental purpose of Fenway Park is to provide a place for the Red Sox to practice and play baseball … ,” Baker said, thanking the Red Sox and CIC Health for turning the park into a successful vaccination site.

He added, “The Hynes will also be able to scale up to a significantly larger number without the distraction that would come with being part of a ballpark that actually active.”

Following Baker’s announcement last week that he would allow 12 percent capacity, or about 4,500 fans at Fenway, to return to large venues later this month, the Red Sox said they were “fully committed to supporting the state’s vaccination program and expect Fenway Park to continue to operate as a mass vaccination site beyond the start of the regular season.”

The governor, however, said the return of player and team personnel to the park for both games and practices, the confusion it could create for vaccine patients and the availability of the Hynes — which Baker has proposed to sell off a state asset — made the transition to the Hynes make sense.

He said he didn’t know if the security of the players had anything to do with the decision.

About 1,500 shots a day are being administered at Fenway, and the Hynes is projected to ramp up to that number this month, but eventually have the capacity to handle 5,000 doses a day.

Baker made the Fenway announcement at St. Patrick’s Church Parish Center in Lawrence after touring a vaccination clinic in the Merrimack Valley city being run by the Greater Lawrence Community Health Center for seniors.

Baker said the state is on track to administer roughly same number of doses – 250,000 doses — next week as it will this week, but explained why only 12,000 new appointments were made available on Thursday morning, a time when typically tens of thousands more appointments go online. The governor said the state expects its allotment of first-dose vaccine next week to stay the same at about 150,000 doses, but the state has a high volume of second dose shots already scheduled.

An additional 13,000 appointments were made for seniors through the state’s call center that limited the availability online, he said.

“I know that remains frustrating for everybody who’s involved who couldn’t get an appointment booked this week,” Baker said, adding, “We and other governors will continue to press the federal government to increase supply more quickly so that we can offer more appointments to people who are eligible.”

Baker said 1 million people will be eligible for vaccinations next week as the shots become available to teachers, school staff and child care workers, but due to limited supply of about 150,000 doses a week the governor said the state would not be diverting any doses specifically for teachers and school staff.

“We could do far more. But to do far more we’re going to need far more vaccine from the feds,” he said.

The governor also said he does not anticipate the state’s vaccine supply to increase substantially this month, despite the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and promises by Moderna and Pfizer to increase production.

“It’s going to be hard to get through the current eligible universe by the end of March,” he said.

Rep. Mindy Domb, an Amherst Democrat, said Baker should be using this time before the vaccine supply increases and the state opens appointments to much larger segments of the population to improve the overall user experience on the appointment website.

“OBVIOUSLY, limited vaccine supply=limited appointments. It does not explain why the state’s scheduling website does not have a pre-registration process or wait list function,” Domb Tweeted during the governor’s press conference.

The governor was in Lawrence to highlight the role community health centers are playing in the state’s vaccination effort, including their role in reaching skeptical communities.

Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said in his city, which has a significant Latinx population, there is “large hesitancy in the community to the vaccine.” The mayor blamed misinformation on social media for a lot of that skepticism.

Kendrys said Lawrence hoped to open its own vaccine clinic at the Arlington school by next week where he hopes people will feel comfortable coming to get vaccinated, and plans to launch his own advertising campaign in the city. The mayor has also planned a town hall for Lawrence residents Thursday night where they will be able to ask questions of local health providers.

“This is what we need in the city, and I wish we can continue to address this concern. There’s a lot of inequalities that exist and I urge the governor to continue to support our efforts locally,” the mayor said.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center CEO John Silva said his organization has permanent vaccination sites in Lawrence and Methuen and will soon be opening in Haverhill. The health center has vaccinated about 300 residents of senior housing in Lawrence so far, and has administered over 12,000 doses in total, including 5,000 last week.

(Copyright (c) 2020 State House News Service.

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