Since the pandemic began, millions across the globe have waited anxiously for their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. It took months of trials and setbacks, but President Joseph R. Biden now expects all Americans over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the vaccine by April 19, two weeks earlier than his original deadline of May 1.
On top of that, nearly 200 million Americans have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, making up 37 percent of the total population of the U.S., according to The New York Times. New England states are doing even better than the national average—with 49 percent of New Hampshire residents receiving at least one dose, according to The Times and 42 percent of residents from Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe.
The good news? You’re probably eligible to receive the vaccine currently, and if you aren’t eligible yet, you will be by April 19. The Beacon Editorial Board has compiled all the information you need about who is currently eligible for the COVID vaccine in Massachusetts, and how you can access the shot.
Massachusetts is currently in Phase Two of vaccine distribution, according to the state’s vaccination website. This means anyone who lives, works, or studies in the state could be eligible if they meet certain vaccination criteria. Under the current Phase Two, those who are eligible must meet one or more of the following criteria:
People 55 years old or older
People living or working in low income and affordable senior housing
K-12 educators, K-12 school staff, and child care workers
Other essential workers, like food service and sanitation workers. Read more about what workers qualify for vaccination eligibility on Massachusetts’ website.
People living with one or more specific medical conditions, which includes: cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases like asthma or COPD, dementia, diabetes, down syndrome, heart conditions, HIV infection, immunocompromised or weakened immune system, liver disease, overweight or obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease or thalassemia, current or former smoking, solid organ or blood stem cell transplant, stroke or cerebrovascular disease, and substance use disorders.
Others who were eligible under Phase One but have not yet received a vaccine. Read the Massachusetts vaccination website for more information about who is currently eligible.
Right now there’s a good chance you fall under at least one of the categories above for eligibility. If not, you will be eligible for the vaccine by early next week. Now, millions who’ve recently become eligible for the vaccine wonder: where can I get the COVID vaccine?
This part is a bit more tricky. There are many avenues that lead to receiving a vaccine, but thousands log online everyday to book new appointments, so it may take some trial and error to get an appointment booked. Below, The Beacon Editorial Board has compiled a few ways to book a vaccine appointment in Massachusetts.
If you’re already eligible, you can pre-register for an appointment at a pharmacy or private clinic through the state’s vaccination finder at vaxfinder.mass.gov. All you have to do is enter your zip code and what sites you prefer, and it will refer you to which centers have the most availability. You can also pre-register for an appointment at a mass vaccination site like Hynes Convention Center through the state’s website if you are not yet eligible. You can pre-register for an appointment at https://vaccinesignup.mass.gov/#/.
Eligible recipients can also book a vaccine appointment through chain pharmacies directly, like CVS and Walgreens, by signing up on their websites. New appointments are frequently added at midnight and 4 A.M., so you’ll have better luck checking the site late at night or early in the morning. Try entering a few different zip codes in the Boston area to get more vaccine site options if no appointments are showing up. You can fill out the mandated survey about your eligibility and insurance information in advance, so that when midnight rolls around, you can snag an appointment as soon as it becomes available.
A number of private clinics, like those at Tufts Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s campus, let you book appointments via their websites or third party software. A full list of clinics can be found on the state’s website.
If you’re still struggling to get an appointment, there are organizations designated to help people find vaccine appointments. Massachusetts COVID Vaccination Help is made up of volunteers who seek out appointments at clinics when there are open slots. Their mission is to help secure appointments for marginalized groups that are “disproportionately disadvantaged by the current [healthcare] system.” You can sign up by simply filling out their online form, and a volunteer will reach out to you when they’ve scheduled your appointment.
To keep updated on newly-available appointments, you can also follow social media accounts that provide vaccination updates, like @vaccinetime and @macovidvaccines on Twitter.
It is crucial that we reach herd immunity through vaccination if we want the pandemic to end. Medical experts estimate between 70–90 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated before we can reach “herd immunity” in the United States.
The Beacon reported earlier this month on the risks of fear mongering in the media, specifically its effects on vaccine hesitancy. We are seeing similar headlines that lead the public to debate which vaccine to get. There was already pre-existing hesitancy towards the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because it was reported as 66 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infection in clinical trials—while the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have efficacy levels of at least 90 percent. However, according to Vox, public health experts say that if you really want to know which vaccine is the best one, efficacy isn’t actually the most important number at all. But in the past few days, the FDA has called for Johnson & Johnson’s temporary suspension amid several cases of rare blood clots linked to the vaccine, which could further peoples’ hesitancy towards the one-dose shot.
Deborah Fuller, a professor in the department of microbiology at the University of Washington, states that not only is the Johnson & Johnson safe for use, but its clinical trial data to show its vaccine can work effectively against other COVID variants. Not to mention that Johnson & Johnson requires only a single dose and no freezer storage, making it a natural fit for rural areas and underserved communities with limited access to health care and storage facilities.
In the meantime, as we all hunt for a vaccine appointment, it’s important to remember that even if you are vaccinated, you must still engage in COVID safety protocols. Just last week, our campus had an unprecedented surge in positive COVID-19 tests that resulted in a week-long stay-at-home order. Let’s finish our semester safely, keeping the health of our community in mind.