PLYMOUTH (CBS) - For 14-year-old Aiden and his twin sister Sage, their grandmother, Beth Gregan is the one person they can always count on. "I live with my grandmother and she's kind of my only support," Aiden said.
After their mother died, and their father left the picture, Gregan took the siblings into her Plymouth home in 2016 - and started raising them as her own. She's one of the more than 30,000 Massachusetts grandparents who have primary guardianship of their grandchildren, according to state data. Amidst a pandemic, Gregan says staying healthy is more than important than ever.
"The kids worry constantly that I'm going to get sick with COVID. And they have nobody, where are they going to end up? Foster care, nobody wants that," Gregan said.
Gregan is 60 years old and doesn't meet the guidelines to get vaccinated, yet. But she's raising teenagers, that through no fault of their own, increase her exposure to the virus.
Starting Monday, Phase 2 of the state's vaccine program will prioritize individuals 75 years or older. Later in the month, the rollout will expand to those over the age of 65.
Phase 3 of the vaccination timeline opens to the general public in April. State numbers show more than half of the grandparents raising grandchildren are under the age of 65.
"They are really first responders. They are in a crossfire of really keeping a burden off the state," said State Senator Susan Moran of Falmouth.
The Cape & Islands senator organized more than 20 Beacon Hill lawmakers in drafting a request asking Governor Baker to make all grandparents raising grandchildren a vaccination priority. In a letter sent this week, Moran suggested setting up "designated vaccination clinics in each county." And pointed to a growing number of grandparent support groups who've organized and are willing to work with the state in planning out the endeavor.
"We wanted to call the governor's attention to that group of folks which is very organized and easy to administrate," Moran said.
"They are vulnerable, they are older. Many of them have secondary and tertiary health conditions that they juggle," Moran said. "But they're so committed to their families and right now are super exposed. They're doing all the shopping; they're doing all the appointments. Yet they don't fall into a direct category to be vaccinated early enough to stop the kind of spread that might occur."
Meanwhile in Plymouth, Gregan is hopeful Governor Baker will listen. And give her a shot at some peace of mind. "It's so important that we stay healthy," Gregan said. "We're older. We can get any sickness and this is a big one"
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