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NATICK – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Massachusetts Health Secretary Marylou Sudders, and State Rep. David Linsky toured the new vaccine site at the former Sears retail store at the Natick Mall this morning, February 24.

The first floor space at the Mall was transformed into one of the Commonwealth’s seven mass vaccine sites, in less than two weeks, according to LabCorp, which is overseeing the site.

The Natick vaccination site, which will serve MetroWest and other residents, opened on Monday.

LabCorp Senior Vice President Bill Haas said this week the site is administering 100 vaccine a day, which is far less than the 500 a day promised. But he said, that number will rise to 500 a day next week, said Haas.

LabCorp has a goal of 5,000 vaccines per day, 7-days-a-week come April, said Haas, at the morning press conference at the Natick Mall.

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“Vaccines are providing our residents with much needed hope, but we must make sure they are able to receive them safely and equitably. With the Natick site, I am thrilled that MetroWest residents will have the ability to travel a short distance to get vaccinated, but more capacity is still needed. I will continue to advocate to have more vaccination sites in all of our local communities,” said Senate President Karen Spilka, who pushed for the MetroWest region to have a mass vaccine site, as opposed to travelling to Gillette Stadium or Fenway Park.

Gov. Baker said the state is limited to the number of vaccines it can administer by the amount of vaccines it receives from the federal government.

The Governor said the federal government is expect to send between 130,000 and 139,000 vaccines next week, and that more than 50,000 vaccine appointments, include those at the Natick Mall, will become available to residents tomorrow.

Gov. Baker said after touring the Natick Mall site, he knows the Commonwealth has more than enough capacity to handle the vaccines, but he also realizes that there is just not enough vaccines to go around for all of those eligible.

Individuals ages 65 and older and those two two morbidity issues are now eligible for the vaccine in Massachusetts.

Last week, the state’s website crashed as more than a million people tried to grab about 50,000 vaccine appointments.

“We have a very limited supply,” said Gov. Baker.

There is not enough doses of the vaccine for every one who is currently eligible, he added.

And Baker said Massachusetts can only administer what the federal government provides.

Gov. Baker said the FDA staff supporting a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson today, which requires just one dose, compared to the other two vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna which require two doses, is good news for those waiting for the vaccine.

Moderna & Pfizer both announced it would double production of its vaccine in March this week.

Haas thanked MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, which is providing staff, vaccine storage, and supplies for the Natick mall vaccine site. Staff at the Natick Mall is administering the Moderna vaccine by appointment only.

The Governor is expected to testify before a joint House & Senate hearing about vaccine distribution on Thursday morning, February 25.

The Governor said today the “legislature has been a terrific partner in this all the way through.”

“We don’t have enough vaccine,” said Gov. Baker, and that lack of vaccine doses is creating “enormous anxiety” for some people.

“I completely understand why people want to get vaccinated,” said the Governor. “We will get there. And I believe we will get there in a reasonable amount of time. I wish it was February, March and April and not April, May and June.”

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To deal with the rush to make website appointments on Thursday, Governor Baker said the Commonwealth’s website will have a waiting room, like those that ticket services use for concerts and sporting events.

The waiting room will place people seeking vaccine appointments in a virtual line until an appointment becomes available.

“It’s designed to basically keep the site running and operating and to make sure people can get through, and have a smooth and uninterrupted experience,” Baker said.

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Photos from the Governor’s Office

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.