Senator Friedman Co-Sponsors Emergency Legislation to Create a One-Stop Online Vaccine Appointment Portal and Phone Hotline

Bill directs the Department of Public Health to immediately stand-up a one-stop digital portal, a 24/7 phone hotline in multiple languages, and statewide text alerts

BOSTON (1/28/2021) – Late this morning, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) co-sponsored ​An Act streamlining COVID-19 vaccination sign-up in Massachusetts (SD.300)​, filed by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow). The current vaccination appointment system has created mass confusion and anxiety, as individuals eligible for Phase 2 vaccinations are asked to navigate a complex web of internet links and appointment slots. This new portal will simplify and standardize the process statewide for booking appointments and allow a phone-based system for seniors who lack access or familiarity with technology.

“This bill is in direct response to the concern, anxiety, and upset that we have heard across the Commonwealth,” ​stated Senator Friedman, who served last term as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.​ “We believe that in a time when there is such a limited supply of vaccine that the state does not have control over, it is imperative that communication be clear, easy, and accessible for everyone.”

“The Phase 2 vaccine rollout is creating mass confusion and anxiety for our eligible senior population. The system is cumbersome, contradictory, and asks residents over 75 to navigate a haze of web links, locations, and instructions, each with different criteria and scheduling systems. And for those with limited ability to navigate the internet, there is no access to appointment booking at all,” ​stated Senator Lesser, who served last term as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.​ “As a national leader in healthcare, it is simply inexcusable that Massachusetts has fallen so far behind other states. We need to do better. I’m grateful to partner on this issue with Senator Friedman, who has tirelessly advocated for health equity during this crisis, and Senator Gobi, who sounded the alarm on this issue in her letter calling on the COVID-19 Task Force to set up a centralized sign-up system.”

An Act streamlining COVID-19 vaccination sign-up in Massachusetts includes the following provisions:

Online portal provisions:

  • Directs the Department of Public Health to immediately establish a centralized, one-stop portal on the mass.gov website to be used to determine eligibility and allow one-stop online sign-up for COVID-19 vaccinations;
  • Requires the portal to be made available to all residents of Massachusetts and must be accessible via internet and mobile device; and
  • Requires the portal to be translated and accessible in multiple languages.

Phone hotline provisions:

  • Directs the Department of Public Health to immediately establish a centralized phone number for residents of Massachusetts to determine vaccine eligibility and sign-up for COVID-19 vaccinations via said phone number;
  • Requires vaccine eligibility determination to be accessible in multiple languages; and
  • Requires the phone number to be staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and must include sufficient staffing to prevent significant wait times for callers.

Public awareness provision:

  • Directs the Department of Public Health to share information about the portal and phone number with the general public, including, but not limited to, via the “AlertsMA” text-based notification system.

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