Baker-Polito Administration outlined plans to vaccinate the Commonwealth’s first responders

BOSTON — Today, the Baker-Polito Administration outlined plans to vaccinate the Commonwealth’s first responders, the next priority group within Phase One of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

The Administration also launched a new interactive COVID-19 daily dashboard to provide a more user-friendly tool for the public to access data on the impact of COVID-19 in Massachusetts.

First Responder Vaccinations: Vaccinations for first responders, the third priority group within Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s vaccine distribution timeline, will begin Monday, January 11. There are over 45,000 first responders across the Commonwealth, a diverse group that includes fire, police and EMTs, who serve state, local and regional entities.

The Administration, through the COVID-19 Command Center and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, has worked with first responder organizations and departments about the best ways to vaccinate first responders effectively and safely. Based on these conversations, the Commonwealth today announced three options for first responder vaccinations:

  1. Qualifying departments may request vaccines to be administered on-site.  Departments that would like to vaccinate their own first responder staff must follow the guidance for the Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccine Program (MCVP) and have the capacity to vaccinate 200 individuals.
  2. First responders can schedule an appointment at a first responder vaccination site. View a list of locations here.
  3. Mass vaccination sites will also be available for first responders to access the vaccine, which will be launched by the Commonwealth in the coming weeks.

First responder departments and organizations can visit www.mass.gov/firstrespondervaccine to learn more about these options.

Vaccine Phase 2 Priority Group Adjustment: The Commonwealth today is updating its Vaccine Distribution plan today. Based on this recommendation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory group, we are updating prioritization so that individuals age 75+ are included in Phase 2, Group 1, along with individuals of all ages with 2+ comorbidities.  This follows revised recommendations from

the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) issued on December 22. Following the ACIP change, the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Advisory Group convened December 23 and 30 to discuss any changes to its previous recommendations were warranted. The Group came to consensus on a single change to the current recommendations, taking into particular consideration ACIP’s highlighting of individuals age 75 and older as being at particular risk of serious complications of COVID-19.

The revised vaccine distribution timeline will be reflected on www.mass.gov/covidvaccine later today.

Governor Charlie Baker today signed comprehensive health care legislation

BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker today signed comprehensive health care legislation that promotes key priorities initially included in the Administration’s health care legislation filed in 2019. The new law increases insurance coverage for telehealth services, expands the scope of practice for nurse practitioners, other specialized nurses, and optometrists, and takes steps to protect consumers from surprise medical bills. Recognizing the continuing impacts of COVID-19, the law also extends requirements for all insurance carriers in Massachusetts to cover COVID-19 testing and treatment.

The legislation signed today contains several priorities initially included in the Baker-Polito Administration’s health care legislation which was introduced in the fall of 2019, including requiring coverage of telehealth services and expanding the scope of practice for Advanced Practice Nurses. The legislation also extends, and in some instances codifies, critical measures taken through executive action throughout the pandemic to ensure timely access and coverage for COVID-19 treatment and services.

In addition to the provisions enacted today, the recently signed Fiscal Year 2021 budget includes several provisions that correspond to proposals initially introduced in the Administration’s health care legislation. These proposals require all Massachusetts insurers to use a standard credentialing form, and prohibit additional costs for same-day billing for multiple primary care and behavioral health visits.

The key provisions of the new law include:

  • Requiring coverage of telehealth services including behavioral health care
  • Expanding Scope of Practice for Advanced Practice Nurses and Optometrists
  • Increasing disclosures around provider costs and network status to protect consumers from surprise medical bills
  • Removing barriers to urgent care centers for MassHealth members
  • Extending insurance coverage and access to COVID-19 testing and treatment
  • Directing a study and report of the impacts of COVID-19 on the health care system