Vaccine pre-registration makes Massachusetts debut Friday

Signing up for vaccines gets “easier” in Massachusetts come Friday when the state starts to allow people to pre-register for vaccine appointments at mass vaccination sites.

“The preregistration system is designed to make it easier for residents to secure an available appointment,” Gov. Charlie Baker said following a tour of a West Bridgewater factory that pivoted to produce personal protective equipment early in the pandemic.

The pre-registration tool will allow residents to log their information with the state ahead of time and then be sent information via text, call or email to sign up for a vaccine appointment at a mass vaccination site closest to their home once they become eligible, Baker said.

He said this should “take some of the heat and some of the sting” from an online signup process that has so far been defined by technology failures. Now, people will “know where they are in the queue,” Baker said.

The announcement comes nearly three months after the first vaccines arrived in Massachusetts. Baker said he does not anticipate issues with the new Google Cloud-powered tool.

“It’s about time,” Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, told the Herald. DiZoglio had filed legislation to create a pre-registration system.

Sen. Eric Lesser said the move “put an end to the Hunger Games-style mad dash for appointments” seen on Thursdays when the state typically dumps thousands of available appointments online. Those appointments will now route through the pre-registration system instead.

DiZoglio, Lesser and federal lawmakers have put pressure on Baker to roll out some kind of central registration as website errors piled up.

U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss said he’s “glad to see” the governor adopt a pre-registration system and called for more emphasis on regional vaccination sites going forward. Pre-registration could become available for those and other locations in April, Baker said.

Still, Baker said it would “probably still take several weeks” for everyone eligible to get an appointment as the state’s vaccine supply remains limited.

Teachers — as promised — will also get easier access to vaccines with four weekend days designated as educator-only vaccination days at all seven mass vaccination sites in March and April, Baker announced.

K-12 educators, school staff and child care workers will be able to use the pre-registration tool to sign up for vaccine appointments on March 27, April 3, April 10 and April 11. Roughly 25,000 appointments will be available across the four days, Health Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

Lisa Kashinsky contributed to this report.

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