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Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccine site temporarily crashes

February 18, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccine appointment portal temporarily crashed Thursday morning as more than 1 million additional state residents became eligible to schedule a shot.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that of 70,000 available appointments about 20,000 were able to be filled in the morning.

“My hair’s on fire about the whole thing. I can’t begin to tell you how pissed off I am,” Baker said during an appearance on GBH radio. “It’s awful and it’s going to get fixed and I’m going to work very hard to make sure it never happens again.”

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Baker said the administration had run through different scenarios to try to avoid problems with the vaccine portal. He said people in the administration are in the process are trying to determine what happened.

The state on Thursday for the first time began allowing those age 65 and older, people with two or more certain medical conditions, and residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing so sign up for a vaccine shot.

But it came with a warning that it could take up to a month to book an appointment.

“Due to extremely high traffic and volume, the VaxFinder tool and vaccine location websites are experiencing delays and other technical difficulties,” the state’s COVID-19 Command Center said in a statement. “We are working as quickly as possible to resolve these issues.”

The website problems drew rebuke from prominent Democrats.

“I am deeply disappointed that today so many Massachusetts residents are feeling frustration and anger on a day when we should be experiencing hope,” state Senate President Karen Spilka said in a statement.

She added: “The administration must deliver a better experience for our residents, who have already dealt with so much anxiety and disruption.”

The state Legislature has scheduled a hearing for next week to discuss the state’s bumpy vaccine rollout.

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VACCINE SUPPLY DISRUPTION

With delivery being disrupted by winter storms, Baker said Thursday he would consider sending the National Guard to southern states to collect shipments of COVID-19 vaccines earmarked for Massachusetts.

“We may have some real issues with supply delivery this week,” Baker said in a remote address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. “We have been told it would be a few days late, based on some of the issues around weather in other parts of the country.”

They said approval from the federal government may be needed.

“We’re currently talking to the National Guard about, and they will do this, about going down to Kentucky and Tennessee, which is where this stuff is currently located, and bringing it back,” Baker said. “And what we just need to do is make sure that the federal government is going to let the National Guard do this for us.”

Given the current pace of vaccinations, the state can’t afford to go a week without getting any new doses, he said.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 61 on Thursday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 15,373 since the start of the pandemic.

The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by about 1,800 and its confirmed caseload rose to more than 534,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 1,000 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 270 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 70. There were an estimated more than 38,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 8,436.

More than 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 937,000 first doses and nearly 330,000 second doses.