BOSTON – Gov. Charlie Baker has agreed to testify before the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness on Thursday at the first oversight hearing of the new panel where lawmakers are planning to question the administration on its coronavirus vaccine program, according to one of the committee’s chairs.
Massachusetts’ position with respect to other states has been rapidly improving as the supply of vaccine coming into the state has increased and as the state has opened up its eligibility criteria to include more of the population.
Two new mass vaccinations sites are set to open this week in Natick and Dartmouth, and according to the Centers for Disease Control the state ranked 15th in the country for doses administered per capita and 11th for people with at least one dose per capita.
However, after last week’s website crash, lawmakers continue to raise questions about the state’s technology, the lack of ability to preregister for a shot and the decision to stop distributing vaccine to local clinics in favor of high-capacity vaccination sites.
Sen. Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat and co-chair of the COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness Committee, confirmed that Baker over the weekend had accepted the committee’s invitation to testify at Thursday’s oversight hearing.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and officials with the Department of Public Health have also agreed to go before the committee, she said.
The committee invited Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, Assistant Public Health Commissioner Jana Ferguson and Assistant Public Health Commissioner and Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences Kevin Cranston.
In addition, the chairs of three other committees — Health Care Financing, Public Health, and Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion — have been asked to assemble expert panels to present to the oversight committee.