Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley tries to spread the word, tweet and advise voters on a useful hospital website (bmc.org/covid-19-vaccine-locations) and phone number (617-638-9620) at Boston Medical Center . O’Malley’s 70-year-old aunt and other voters, initially thwarted by the state’s Balka website, were able to use this information to get vaccinated recently. People must be Boston residents and are currently eligible for a shot to receive an appointment through this site or number that connects them to a BMC location in Hyde Park, Matapan, Roslindale or Dorchester.
“I had a number of seniors turn to me for help,”
In the country’s largest health care system, Mass General Brigham, leaders say they are starting to send emails to eligible groups of their 1.8 million patients e-tickets that contain a personalized registration link. Mass General Brigham is targeting patients for the first time in communities that are most affected by infections, but also reaching out more widely.
Unlike the state’s website, where available slots evaporate at first glance, these invitations don’t go away so quickly, said Dr. Tom Sequist, chief patient experience at MGB and Capital.
“We’re trying to ensure that if we contact you, you’ll get a slot,” Sequist said. But he encourages patients to act as quickly as possible, because if they wait more than 21 days, the slot may disappear. The system will also send messages to connected patients, as more people tend to use mobile phones with Internet access than computers, Sequist said.
Eligible Mass General Brigham patients can also register for available patient gateway slots on the system, a portal that allows patients to access their records, and other types of appointments. The portal began providing COVID vaccine appointments on March 3 at Assembly Row in Somerville, but more meetings are expected elsewhere in the MGB in the coming days.
Mike Festa, director of the AARP in Massachusetts, who lobbies government officials on behalf of seniors, said he was relieved that hospitals were aggressively stepping forward to reach people as his organization listened to many frustrated seniors.
“There is a percentage of people who have just given up,” Festa said. That’s my biggest concern.
Festa, who is over 65 and qualifies for a shot, has spent hours searching simultaneously on his laptop, cell phone and iPad, and is also short.
At Beth Israel Lahey Health, the growth begins next week.
“We have the opportunity to vaccinate 14,000 patients [a week] for first-dose appointments, and that will be our speed forward, ”said Peter Shorett, who is leading the system’s initiative.
BI Lahey, which numbers 1.6 million patients, also focuses first on color communities and those most affected by the virus, but also accidentally sends emails and texts to other qualified patients with links to sign up for shot. And for those who only have landlines, the system sends voice messages that direct patients to a helpline to register.
UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester expects to be able to double the number of vaccines it delivers daily from about 300 to 600 next week, with 60 percent reserved for patients on the system and the rest for website grabbing. The system of 400,000 patients is also expanding its reach via e-mail.
But for people who are too gloomy to wait for their health care system to contact them, there is a horn of plenty of new free services coming from groups of technical gurus who will send a text or email alert when a shot is fired in user-preferred location. Some, such as vaccination help at Massachusetts Covid, find and book appointments for people. Others are websites, such as MACovidVaccines.com, that search and find accessible openings and users then register.
The sites are not affiliated with the official system of the state and employees recommend that users not use such “unauthorized, unofficial sources”.
One of the newest participants is a developed service called MA Covid Vaccine Finder by three Beverly sisters, which makes it simple. Users provide their name and email, and system emails with open appointments.
Co-founders Lila Gabrielli, 23, and her sisters Polly, 24, and Abigail, 26, were disappointed when their mother was unable to make an appointment on Feb. 18, the day the state system collapsed when nearly a million people aged 65 years to 74, and those with concomitant health conditions became eligible and flooded the website.
Until nightfall, Lila Gabrieli, a master’s degree student in data science, set up a program to quickly browse the state’s website and find slots. Her mother, using the system, has an appointment for the next day. So Gabrieli posted an offer on Facebook to help other friends and family and the things that snowed from there. It is growing from 500 to more than 2,000 requests for help and is growing, says the nurse.
They have created a website and say they are improving their program to better target user-preferred shooting locations.
“We make sure that when people turn, if we are not in the best shape, we will respond,” Gabrieli said. “We let them know that they are not alone. We are real people behind the screen and we try our best to help people all over the country. “
You can contact Kay Lazar at email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.