Lesser calls on state to set up a one-stop sign-up system for vaccines

  • State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, represents the 1st Hampden and Hampshire District, which includes the towns of Belchertown and Granby. FILE PHOTO

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston. File photo

Managing Editor
Published: 1/28/2021 1:19:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Calling the state’s system for booking vaccination appointments “inexcusable,” Sen. Eric Lesser on Thursday filed emergency legislation that directs the state Department of Public Health to immediately establish an accessible, one-stop online sign-up for COVID-19 vaccinations for both desktop computers and mobile devices.

The legislation also requires state health officials to immediately establish a phone hotline in multiple languages, to be staffed 24/7, and directs DPH to notify residents of these options for vaccination sign-up using a text-based notification system like “AlertsMA.”

“The Phase 2 vaccine rollout is creating mass confusion and anxiety for our eligible senior population,” Lesser, D-Longmeadow, said in a statement announcing the legislation. “The system is cumbersome, contradictory, and asks residents over 75 to navigate a haze of web links, locations, and instructions, each with different criteria and scheduling systems. And for those with limited access to appointment booking at all.”

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer, and Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington. Lesser said the state needs to do better to help simplify and streamline the vaccination booking process for seniors who lack access or familiarity with technology.

“As a national leader in healthcare, it is simply inexcusable that Massachusetts has fallen so far behind other states,” he said.

The state unveiled a website earlier this month with information about vaccination locations, eligibility, and requirement for eligibility groups. Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine rollout is scheduled to begin Monday prioritizing people 75 and older, followed by people 65 and older and those with two or more conditions that put them at increased risk of severe illness. Early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, restaurant and cafe workers are also among those included in Phase 2.

Friedman, who last term served as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, said the emergency bill filed Thursday (An Act streamlining COVID-19 vaccination sign-up in Massachusetts), is in direct response to concern and anxiety the lawmakers have heard across the state.

“We believe that in a time when there is such a limited supply of vaccine that the state does not have control over, it is imperative that communication be clear, easy, and accessible for everyone,” she said in a statement.

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