BOSTON (CBS) – A new preregistration system will launch Friday aimed at simplifying the way people sign up for appointments at the seven mass COVID vaccination sites in Massachusetts.
When the form goes live at Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine, it will replace the current online booking platform used for mass vaccine sites. That means Thursday will be the last time mass vaccination site appointments will be booked in that format, which has frustrated many users.
The preregistration system will not impact this week's appointment release on Thursday, March 11, when more than 40,000 new first dose appointments will be made available at the mass vaccination sites.
When the new preregistration site goes live Friday, those who are eligible for vaccines will now fill out an online form to request to book an appointment at a mass vaccination site near them.
Once the form is completed, they will receive a confirmation message - via text, e-mail or phone. Then they will get weekly updates about their status. When an appointment at a mass vaccination site becomes available, they will be notified and have 24 hours to accept it.
"It sounds so reasonable. It does make me wonder who made up the program at the beginning," said Dianne Gregory, who drove to Gillette from Cape Cod Wednesday. She said it took her 20 hours to get the appointment.
For older residents and others who cannot use the form, the preregistration system allows family members, caregivers, or others to fill it out for them. You can also call 211 to preregister.
"The process will hopefully ease some of the anxiety and the burden folks have been experiencing trying to secure an appointment, because of the constrained supply of vaccine," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.
The preregistration service is only for the mass vaccination sites. Gov. Charlie Baker said they plan to add more vaccine locations to the service in April.
"People should keep in mind that it will probably still take several weeks for eligible residents to be notified that there is an appointment available for them," Baker told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
"Beyond mass vaccination sites, there are thousands of vaccination appointments available every week at different sites."
"We'll continue to find ways to make the process easier from start to finish, even with limited supply." the governor said, adding the plan will "take some of the heat and the sting out of what some of the supply shortage has done generally to people here in the commonwealth.
Since the state partnered with Google for the pre-registration program, Baker says he's confident the site won't crash, as it has in the past.
Teachers become eligible to signup at the mass vaccination sites starting Thursday, adding about 400,000 more people to the pool of those who qualify.
The new pre-registration site will not be up and running by Thursday, when educators become eligible to sign up. That means there will be competition again Thursday morning, as thousands are expected to log on to claim about 40,000 new appointments.
The state also announced Wednesday that four days will be set aside for teachers-only at the mass vaccination sites - Saturday, March 27th, Saturday, April 3rd, Saturday, April 10th and Sunday, April 11th.
Massachusetts currently has mass vaccine sites at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Natick Mall, Gillette Stadium, the Doubletree Hotel in Danvers, the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, the former Circuit City in Dartmouth, and at the Hynes Convention Center starting March 18. The Fenway Park site is open through March 27 until it is phased out.
Visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find out when you're eligible and to book an appointment or call the hotline at 211.
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