Mass. launches call center to help residents 75+ make COVID-19 vaccine appointment


BOSTON (WPRI) — Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that Massachusetts has launched a new call center to help eligible residents book vaccination appointments, along with a new campaign to get the word out.

The call center, accessed by calling 211, is available to those who are 75 and older who do not have access to the state’s vaccination website. The center will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 500 representatives will be staffing the line to provide live support in both English and Spanish. Translators will also be available for about 100 other languages.

“You may experience, at least as this thing starts to get going, significant waiting times using the center and the website will remain the quickest and fastest way for someone to find and schedule an appointment if they are comfortable using it,” Baker added.

Baker said the call center comes after a lot of frustration with the sign-up process for vaccinations. The website has already been updated to add eligibility checkers and the ability to search by ZIP code to find a site that is open and available.

After 120,000 new appointment slots opened on Thursday, there are still 20,000 appointments available for next week, as of Friday morning, at three mass vaccination sites: Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, and the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.

Massachusetts currently has 125 vaccination clinics open and Baker said the goal is to have 165 open by the middle of the month.

Baker also announced the state’s new public awareness campaign “Trust the Facts, Get the Vax.”

The goal of the campaign is to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, according to Baker, and to encourage people to get immunized once they are eligible.

The videos feature doctors from area hospitals discussing safety measures used in their development and clinical trials. Others discuss the safety of the vaccines and possible side effects.

“This $2.5 million public awareness campaign is all about using medical professionals to build trust in communities of color, and other populations disproportionately affected by the virus,” Baker said.

The first television spot will be shown during the Super Bowl kick-off show, and beginning next week, the campaign will be “very visible across a number of platforms.”

As of Friday morning, more than 681,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered, which is up from 496,000 at this time last week.

On Friday, Massachusetts reported 2,982 new positive cases. Health officials also announced an additional 74 deaths in the state, bringing the total to 14,563 since the start of the pandemic.

There are currently 1,503 hospitalizations, according to the Department of Health, with 322 in the intensive care unit and 196 on ventilators.

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