The Commonwealth of Massachusetts designated Fenway Park a mass COVID-19 vaccination site and announced a partnership with Walgreens and CVS Health pharmacies.
Fenway Park will become the second mass vaccination site in the state, joining Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, which first began offering shots mid-January. Vaccines will be distributed at Fenway Park from Feb. 1 until baseball season starts in early April, according to a Tuesday Baker-Polito press release.
The vaccination site at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will now also provide vaccinations for all eligible groups in Phase 1 of the state’s vaccination plan, according to the release. Previously, the site only administered vaccinations to first responders.
The Commonwealth has joined the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pharmacy Partnership to provide vaccines at retail pharmacies. CVS and Walgreens locations across Massachusetts are now providing vaccines in areas without convenient access to the larger vaccination sites.
Vaccines are only available to individuals in Phase 1 of the state’s vaccination plan, including health care workers, first responders and those working in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and congregate care settings.
Because some residents are hesitant to take the vaccine, multiple locations can ease their discomfort, said Paul Beninger, associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University.
“If it’s in a CVS, it’s going to attract certain kinds of people who are going to be more comfortable with that than something else,” he said. “The key is to have a variety of venues, and [the different vaccination sites] meets that.”
Beninger added that the larger, more open venues of Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium are beneficial — as long as physical distancing and mask-wearing are enforced.
“Having crowds, no, that’s not good,” Beninger said. “But with all the appropriate distancing, there should be no increased risk.”
An advantage of using retail pharmacies is that they already have experience distributing vaccines and immunizations, according to Philip Landrigan, director of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program.
“The beauty of using this strategy is that, especially when it comes to the pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens,” Landrigan said, “is the state is able to take advantage of all the skills that those companies have in logistics and moving the vaccine out to people.”
Beninger added that clinical trials indicate the two approved vaccines have worked as expected, meaning distribution can be scaled up without concern.
“There’s no expectation that there are any surprises there of what may happen,” Beninger said. “We need to get it out as quickly as we can.”
When it comes to demand, Landrigan said many people are likely to want the vaccine. A December poll by the Mass Inc. Polling Group found 71 percent of Massachusetts residents are at least “somewhat” likely to get the vaccine when available to them.
“The rate limiting factor now of course is availability,” Landrigan said. “Anything that makes vaccines easy and convenient for people is good.”
Beninger said Massachusetts appears more organized and prepared for distribution than other parts of the country, which may help the state move more quickly into production of the vaccine.
“There’s always a learning curve, so you can’t escape that,” Beninger said. “I think we’re starting much higher on the learning curve, and it’s going much more quickly, which is what you would expect … We just need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”