BOSTON — Massachusetts has fully vaccinated more than 2 million people against COVID-19, but the biggest challenge of the rollout begins this week as the remainder of the state's adult population and some teens become eligible to get their shots.
Beginning Monday, anyone 16 and older can make an appointment to get vaccinated. The state estimates more than 1.7 million people are included in the group — the largest segment since vaccinations started in December.
Gov. Charlie Baker is urging people to be patient as it may take time to book an appointment.
"Our tech team continues to work hard to improve our website and user experience and is prepared for the influx in traffic," Baker said at a briefing last week.
Massachusetts was one of the last states — including Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont — to expand eligibility to those 16 and older.
But the Bay State is among the top nationally in terms of the per capita number of people vaccinated, with more than 3 million first doses administered as of Monday, and about 2 million people fully vaccinated. The state has about 6.9 million residents.
President Joe Biden, who also set the April 19 date for expanding eligibility nationally to those 16 and older, is trying to sell the vaccine to skeptics.
"We’re making tremendous progress, but we’re still in the race against this virus, and we need to vaccinate tens of millions more Americans," Biden said in remarks on Sunday. "We could have a safe and happy Fourth of July with your family and friends in small groups in your backyard. That’s going to take everyone doing their part. Get vaccinated."
The expansion of eligibility comes as federal health officials probe whether Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine is linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder among women. Massachusetts suspended administration of the vaccine last week, after federal health officials recommended pausing its use.
Nationally, more than 131 million people — or about half of all adults — had received at least one shot as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 84.3 million have been fully vaccinated.
Those looking to get shots can book through the state's website — https://vaccinesignup.mass.gov/#/ — that allows people to pre-register to get a shot at one of the seven state-run, large-capacity sites, community health centers and regional collaboratives.
Once someone is pre-registered, they will be notified via email, phone or text when an appointment is available.
Health clinics, as well as retail outlets such as CVS and Walgreens, are also administering vaccines. A list of locations and availability is on the state's appointment portal — https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
For people living near the New Hampshire border, there's another option.
Beginning this week, New Hampshire expanded its vaccine eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to residents 16 and older and Gov. Chris Sununu has opened up the process to people from out of state, saying the state has plenty to go around.
Only New Hampshire and Oklahoma offer vaccines to non-residents.
"Whether you live in Boston, Maine, Vermont, New York, doesn’t matter, come on in, get your vaccine," Sununu said at a recent press briefing. "We’re open for business."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org