It was a rocky start for the Baker administration’s vaccine rollout, with crashing websites and angry teachers. But things have taken a dramatic turn for the better, and Gov. Charlie Baker is anxious to get that word out.
“We are leading the country, among all states that have more than 4 million people, in practically every category,” Baker said in an interview from his state house office.
Massachusetts is now the nation’s leader for vaccinations administered per capita among the 25 states with more than 5 million people, and it has the second-highest rate of Black residents with at least one dose.
“When I look at our data and what we distribute and what we make available and how often we put it out there, I’m really hard-pressed to find states that do more,” Baker said.
Still, physicians and community leaders will rally at the state house Tuesday to “blast” Baker for his handling of the COVID-19 response.
“One of the things that comes with this pandemic is a tremendous amount of anxiety, which I completely get and understand,” Baker said. “That means every time we make a decision, somebody’s going to be unhappy. And I accept that as part of the drill.”
Other criticism comes from those who wonder why 45-year-olds in Connecticut are getting vaccinated while 60-year-olds in Massachusetts have just become eligible. Why is the state lagging?
“Some of this depends on what groups you chose to prioritize,” Baker said. “I get the fact that in some states, it’s going to look different than it looks here. But some of that has to do with the fact that we focused, early on, on some very hard-to-reach populations that we felt were very vulnerable.”
Those groups include homeless and mentally ill people.
As for the crashing of the websites, some have pointed out that Baker, of all people, should have been able to handle that better, since he is known as a former manager and health care executive.
“We were told in December that we would have more vaccine that we knew what to do with by February,” Baker said. “That did not happen.”
Baker says other states have had similar problems with websites and lack of supply.
The governor also faced criticism in the battle over prioritizing teachers. Baker and the state’s largest teachers union butted heads earlier this month.
“Educators have been prioritized. And they’ve been getting vaccinated by the tens of thousands,” Baker said. “It’s time to get the kids back into the classroom, especially given the impact we all know that not being in the classroom has had on them emotionally and developmentally.”