(WGGB/WSHM) -- Another large group of Massachusetts residents are now eligible to sign-up for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday. People who are 55 and older are eligible, in addition to people with one serious qualifying health condition.
That list of health conditions has been expanded by state health officials, widening the number of eligible people.
When people with two or more comorbidities became eligible for the shot in February, the list of qualifying health conditions was a bit restrictive. Within the last week, however, state public health officials have expanded the list and now, people only need to have one condition.
The COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone 55 years and older in Massachusetts, but if you are 16 and older and have a serious health condition, you may be able to sign-up for the shot too.
In February, people with two or more conditions were eligible, provided their illnesses were listed in the state’s definition of a serious health problem. It was a somewhat narrow list that’s grown in the last week
“The CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health revised their list of qualifying conditions,” said Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center.
Notable new additions to the list include people with an HIV infection, Type 1 diabetes rather than just Type 2, dementia and other neurological conditions, and substance use disorders.
“There’s still a lot of individuals out there that still see substance use disorders as a choice and it’s not. It’s a chronic disease,” said Dr. Madeline Aviles with the Gandara Center
Aviles said prioritizing people with substance use disorders for the vaccine will help cut down on infection and spread among this high-risk population.
“Individuals with substance use disorders are, in fact, more likely to have diabetes or obesity, cardiovascular diseases, heart problems, lung diseases,” Aviles explained.
Western Mass News asked Springfield public health officials how the expansion of the qualifying health condition list will affect city residents specifically.
“We are disproportionately represented in those numbers as a city, so opening that up will allow us to give access to those individuals, but more than that, by calling out those comorbidities, you help people see themselves in wanting to get vaccinated because they understand that we are really talking about you,” said Springfield Health and Human Service Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
The eligible medical conditions that now apply for those eligible for vaccination include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
- Dementia or other neurological conditions
- Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension)
- HIV infection
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
- Liver disease
- Overweight and obesity - Calculate your BMI here
- Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
- Smoking, current or former
- Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
- Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
- Substance use disorders