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'Disturbing Reports' Of People Taking Advantage Of New Mass. COVID Vaccine Caregiver Policy

EAST BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state has heard "disturbing reports" of people trying to take advantage of elderly residents after the announcement that caretakers can receive a COVID vaccine when bringing someone over 75 years old to an appointment.

Thursday marked the first day of the new policy, which is aimed at making sure more seniors can receive their vaccine. Even if a caregiver is not yet eligible under the state's vaccine guideline, they can receive a shot when accompanying a senior.

"We have heard some pretty disturbing reports of some people trying to take advantage of this program already - some people posting online, trying to get a senior to bring them to a vaccination site, or in some cases asking to be paid to drive somebody to one," Baker said. "If you're 75 years or older and you need assistance going through the vaccination process, you should only reach out to somebody that you know or trust to bring you."

Anyone who is contacted by someone soliciting to take them to a vaccine site is asked to report it to police.

"Don't take calls or offers from people you don't know well or trust, and never share your personal information with anyone," Baker said.

Seventy-two-year-old Gloria Clark put an ad on Craigslist offering a ride because she wants the shot herself. "I've been waiting 65 and up and it's not coming," Clark said. "I saw the governor offered that and I'm available."

"I made a joke that I could get arrested and go to prison and get it, list me as a smoker and I might get it, all the prerequisites I don't have because I'm healthy," Clark said.

It was great news for Mark Bathe who was accompanying his 83-year-old mother to Fenway Park on Thursday, though he can only get an appointment when she returns in three weeks. "I certainly don't want to take vaccine away from people who need it most because I'm a healthy 45-year-old, but at the same time if it's available and efficient to do it that way then I'm happy to take it," Bathe said.

Marion Westgate, who was at Fenway Park with her in-laws, will be looking for an appointment too. "I would feel guilty but on the other hand my mother-in-law pointed out that we are around each other all the time so it makes sense," Westgate said.

The company that runs the Fenway vaccine site wants to distribute as many doses as possible. "If there are some people on Facebook offering a ride to get an appointment and if that works great," said Rodrigo Martinez, spokesperson for CIC Health. "We're trying to get as many 75 and over vaccinated in these first weeks so we can move onto the next phase."

Julia Arnese, a recent Boston College graduate, posted to the website offering to give any seniors in her area a ride to get their vaccine. The Watertown woman says she was simply motivated to help other people.

"In high school I volunteered at a nursing home for a few years and ran bingo and group exercise," Arnese said.

Arnese said one woman got back to her and took her up on her offer.

"I talked to one woman and I'm actually taking her on Sunday to a clinic in Cambridge. And, I'm not getting the shot but she is. And that's really all that matters," she said.

Visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find out when you're eligible and to book an appointment.

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