Baker: Vaccines to congregate housing, prisons, shelters on Monday

Shelter at Whaling Church has started to receive vaccines.

Inmates at the Dukes County Jail are set to receive COVID-19 vaccines on Jan. 19. — Michael Cummo

In another step for vaccine distribution, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that Massachusetts will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to those in congregate care settings, prisons, and shelters.

Speaking at a press conference, Baker said that beginning Monday, more than 94,000 people in congregate care settings would be eligible to receive the vaccine. Vaccines can be self-administered if certain criteria is met, work with pharmacies or providers to give the shot, or utilize mass vaccination sites.

Baker said it was a matter of public health when asked why a convicted murderer serving a life sentence should receive a vaccine before others who are not in jail. He added that lawyers, relatives, and advocates enter prisons and interact with inmates.

“We made the decision early on that we were going to focus on what we consider to be populations that were most at-risk, and all the data and all the evidence makes it pretty clear that congregate care settings are at-risk communities, no matter how you define them,” Baker said.

In an email to The Times Dukes County Sheriff’s Office public relations assistant Heather Arpin wrote that the sheriff’s office will begin offering Moderna vaccines to people in custody on Jan. 19.

“There are currently six inmates in the care of the Dukes County House of Corrections. Once a frozen vial containing 10 vaccines is open and vaccines are thawed, they must be used within six hours,” Arpin wrote. “As new individuals enter custody, we will have the opportunity to request additional vaccines from DPH.” 

The vaccines have a frozen shelf life of six months when unopened and frozen, according to Arpin. Vaccines will be stored in a freezer until they are used, in accordance with CDC and DPH guidelines. She added the sheriff’s office has not received any surplus vaccines. 

Shelters are also included in the latest vaccine rollout. Speaking to The Times by phone Thursday, Lisa Belcastro, a coordinator at the Harbor Homes warming and overnight shelter, at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown said her staff began receiving vaccines from Island Health Care this week.

“It’s fantastic. I got mine yesterday and you don’t feel a thing. We got the Moderna,” Belcastro said. “It’s pretty darn simple.”

This was the first round of vaccines for the shelter and included only staff. There is no set date yet for a second round of vaccines for the shelter, but it will include the remainder of the staff and guests staying at the shelter.

“Things are going great,” she said. “I’ve got an amazing staff, wonderful guests. It’s truly been just a fabulous season. Obviously, we wish we didn’t have to be here and everyone had a home…It’s a great thing we can provide the care people need and the safety people need at this time.”

According to the state’s timeline, the next group eligible for vaccines in Phase one will be home-based healthcare workers and non COVID-facing health workers, which is estimated to begin in February.

Phase two of the vaccine rollout is expected to begin later this month and go through April, and includes, in order of priority, people with more than two comorbidities and or age 75 and older, early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, adults  public health workers, over 65, and then those with one comorbidity. Phase three, which includes the general public, is expected to begin sometime in April and go through June.


  1. In phase two you are missing those seniors who are aged 75 and over along with those with more than two comorbidities

  2. Yes, because the 25 year old who killed an innocent 22 year old recently should be protected. Grandma can wait her turn.

  3. remember that while it seems unfair for “inmates” to get the vaccine they are at a greater risk due to close quarters. By getting them the vaccine we are also protecting the officers, their families, and the general public. Also the state has a responsibility to those in custody. It’s known as the three “C”, “CARE, CUSTODY, CONTROL”.

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