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Baker Says State Isn't Seeing Anticipated Increase Of COVID Vaccines From Feds

SPRINGFIELD (CBS) -- Limited coronavirus distribution is still slowing the rollout in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said Saturday. The governor spoke at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield after touring a mass COVID-19 vaccination site that was set up there.

"I can't stress how important it is for everybody to understand that federal supply is limited. We currently get somewhere between 103 and 106,000 new doses a week. That's not a heck of a lot more than we were getting a month ago," Baker said.

There's been an assumption that "by the time we got to the end of February, there would be a really significant increase in the amount of vaccine that was available to be distributed," said Baker. "So far that's not materialized."

According to the governor, another issue is the state's inability to see the supply chain. "What that means is, how many weeks in advance can we order supply so that we can start thinking about being strategic about how we make decisions about distribution. So far, it's still one week. We can only go out one week in terms of or making orders and making decisions about how that vaccine is going to get distributed."

He acknowledged the state has more capacity to distribute vaccines than it has vaccines.

There are currently more than 170 vaccine distribution sites in the state. On Friday, Massachusetts passed the one million mark of distributed vaccines.

Also earlier this week, the state started a companion system for COVID-19 vaccinations. It allows a caregiver who not yet eligible for a vaccine to receive the shot when accompanying a senior to a vaccination site.

"We put that policy in place for one reason and one reason only to help provide support to seniors who might feel uncomfortable going to a mass vaccination site alone," said Baker.

He said the move was supported by a number of senior advocacy groups but said there have been "disturbing reports" of people trying to take advantage of the program by paying a senior to take them to their appointment. "That obviously is unacceptable and completely inconsistent with what we're trying to do here. Seniors if you do get a call from someone who's offering to take you to a site, you really ought to report that to authorities."

On Friday, 13 lawmakers signed a letter asking Baker to put the program on hold.

In the meantime, the vaccine call center is extending its hours to include time on weeknights and weekends due to its popularity. It will now be open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m.

"The sooner we get a big piece of the 75-year-old community vaccinated we can start talking about vaccinating, the 65 plus group. But I'm uncomfortable moving on from where we are until we demonstrated that we've made it possible for as many 75-year-olds as possible to get vaccinated," said Baker.

"Goal number one here is preservation of life."

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