A day before Gov. Charlie Baker is set to testify before lawmakers on the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, he announced a series of updates including the designation of 11 regional immunization collaboratives and plans to make 50,000 new appointments available on Thursday.
Baker said he expects the new appointments to be booked up quickly, and said changes are being made to prepare the state's website for an anticipated surge in traffic like the one that led to a crash last week as about a million people became newly eligible for vaccines. Baker said the site "will have bolstered server capacity" and a new "digital waiting room" that will place some users in a queue to wait their turn in high-traffic periods.
He said he expects "the site's performance tomorrow to be significantly better," and that the waiting room will "be a very important part of making sure that people have access to and the ability to determine if they can make an appointment."
Baker spoke from recently opened mass vaccination site at a former Sears store in the Natick Mall, which officials said is currently delivering about 100 doses a day and has a goal of administering up to 5,000 per day in April. The regional locations — which include sites at the Marshfield Fairgrounds and the Polish American Citizens Club in Gardner — announced Wednesday have capacity to vaccinate at least 750 people per day, subject to supply, and will be open to all Massachusetts residents starting March 1, according to the Baker administration.
Without an increase in vaccine supply from the federal government, Baker said, it will probably take about a month to move through the current eligibility groups and onto the next groups of people in the phased distribution plan.
"If we see an increase, obviously, in weekly first dose vaccines, that process might go a little quicker," he said.
Baker said he was encouraged by news about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate as well as claims by Moderna and Pfizer officials that they plan to substantially boost vaccine supplies.