New group now eligible to get the vaccine in MA

BOSTON — Beginning Monday, April 5, residents 55 and older and those with one qualifying health condition can book vaccine appointments.

The qualifying health conditions include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • HIV
  • Being overweight (as defined by body mass index)
  • Having a substance use disorder

It’s a major movement toward getting more Massachusetts residents protected against COVID-19 and emerging variants.

“Today’s new categories having access to the vaccine is a huge step forward in terms of opening it up to a lot more people, essentially one co-morbidity – that means that a lot of people have access to vaccines starting today, a BMI of 25, that’s pretty low,” said Shira Doron, MD, Infectious Disease Physician and Hospital Epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center.

Just how low or how “overweight” is that?

“BMI of 25 is really only moderately overweight, so if you’ve got a little bit of a gut you probably fall into that category,” said Robert Klugman MD FACP FACMQ, AVP, Medical Director Employee Health and Occupational Health, UMass Memorial Health.

Also included, those with substance use disorder.

“Alcohol use, other drugs, marijuana, people who use substances are thought to be at an increased risk because a lot of them can knock down your immune system and your ability to fight off infections, it’s a broad group,” said Dr. Klugman.

That’s hundreds of thousands of people across the state now able to book an appointment.

More vaccine is coming in, but challenges still exist when it comes to getting an appointment.

“I think people are getting appointments more quickly than they were, I do think it still favors people who are tech-savvy. I think it favors people who are out on social media sharing ideas with each other,” said Dr. Doron.

“The demand now far outstrips the supply and now as more groups are open to be vaccinated it’s put a huge demand so people are still very frustrated with their ability to get appointments,” said Dr. Klugman.

Beginning on April 19 those aged 16 and older become eligible to get the vaccine.

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