SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- As the U.S. marks one-year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker defended his plan for vaccinating teachers and education staff. That group became eligible to sign up for vaccines at mass vaccination sites Thursday, joining thousands of other eligible people in the state.
Starting Friday, teachers and education staff can book appointments for one of the seven mass vaccine sites using a new google cloud registration system.
State officials said this puts people in a queue and will replace the current system of waiting in the online waiting rooms. But the governor defended his plan to vaccinate teachers, as Massachusetts Teachers Association makes more demands.
"I got vaccinated on Sunday. Today, she got vaccinated, my husband, and my brother-in-law," said Springfield resident Irena Wurszt.
Getting vaccinated was a family affair for the Wurszts, using the Eastfield Mall mass vaccine site Thursday.
Starting Friday, the state will use a preregistration system for the COVID-19 shots at mass sites, which puts people in a queue. But state officials warn about using this new system could take weeks for eligible people, like teachers, to get a shot.
"We incorporated them into the current eligibility model today, and we set aside four days at the end of March and the beginning of April," Baker said.
The governor defended his plan to provide four teacher-only clinics. This comes as the Massachusetts Teachers Association has put forth a more robust plan to vaccinate teachers using firefighters to administer the shot. The union also wants to vaccinate college workers in their plan. But the governor said he is sticking to his rollout.
"I am not gonna be in a position where I take vaccines away from people who are extremely vulnerable with multiple medical conditions and are over the age of 65 to give it to a targeted population," he said.
But elementary teachers will have to go back to class full time starting April 5.
Susan Edwards, an elementary teacher, got her vaccine already but said she is worried about her colleagues getting protected in time.
"I think it's unfortunate that the governor did not prioritize us like they prioritized the teachers in other states," Edwards noted.