Mass General Brigham says it can’t schedule new coronavirus vaccine appointments due to limited supply from state

The state’s largest hospital system says it can no longer schedule new coronavirus vaccine appointments due to limited supply as the Baker administration pushes more doses toward mass vaccination sites, pharmacies and community health centers.

“We were informed by the state that due to limitations in vaccine supply that we at Mass General Brigham are to stop scheduling new first dose appointments for vaccines for both patients and health care workers,” Dr. Tom Sequist, the system’s chief patient experience and equity officer, told the Herald on Thursday.

Sequist said the hospital system was instructed that it can still honor all currently scheduled vaccine appointments.

But he said once those appointments are completed “it will result in us closing down our vaccine centers” — an operation that included hundreds of employees redeployed from other departments and that had aimed to administer 10,000 shots per week.

Hospital systems that have been the largest recipient of vaccines in Massachusetts up until now were informed on Thursday that their supplies will be constrained for the next several weeks — likely until the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is granted emergency use authorization, sources say.

The news was a blow to hospital systems. Sequist said doses from the state have already been “variable” and that Mass General Brigham received no allocation this past week.

Hospitals will still receive first doses for appointments scheduled next week, as well as second doses, the state said. But focus is shifting elsewhere as the state’s supply remains at just 100,000 doses per week from the feds.

“The Commonwealth will distribute more vaccines to high throughput locations, like mass vaccination sites, retail pharmacy sites, and community health centers until more vaccines are made available by the federal government,” a spokeswoman for the state’s COVID-19 Command Center said.

“All patients and hospital staff with existing appointments will get their first and second shots, and the administration is hopeful more vaccines will arrive soon for more providers, including hospital systems,” the spokeswoman added. “The Command Center and Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association are working together to plan for a more predictable supply for the next few weeks.”

North Shore Medical Center, a Mass General Brigham affiliate, tweeted on Thursday, “Because of limited vaccine supply, we are no longer able to schedule any **NEW** vaccination appts for patients at Mass General Brigham vaccine clinics,” adding in a separate post, “If you are eligible, you can still get your vaccine at one of the state vaccination sites.”

Lawmakers expressed frustration that the state was placing even more emphasis on mass vaccination sites that have been plagued by problems.

“Nothing in the last few days has indicated that this is an effective method to distribute the vaccines,” state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, said.

Sabadosa said people were left waiting in the cold outside the mass vaccination site at Springfield’s Eastfield Mall. And she lambasted the already problematic buddy system that allows younger people accompanying eligible seniors to vaccine appointments to get shots, too.

Plus, Sabadosa said Hampshire and Franklin counties still lack mass vaccination sites, as does Cape Cod.

“We’re already pulling things out of the hands of local people who know their patients, know how to get people in the door effectively and safely, and handing it over to some new entity,” Sabadosa said. “It’s reinventing the wheel when we’ve been seeing this new wheel is missing a few spokes.”

Rick Sobey contributed to this report.

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