MIT granted permission to vaccinate extended MIT community

Massachusetts proceeds with phase 2 of vaccine rollout, appears unlikely to distribute doses to MIT Medical

President L. Rafael Reif announced that “MIT will have permission to vaccinate the extended community” for COVID-19 in a Jan. 29 email to the MIT community. This applies to all faculty, staff, postdocs, students, and affiliates, as well as dependents of community members, with MIT potentially immunizing “as many as 50,000 individuals.”

Members of the MIT community should fill out the vaccine eligibility form “right away,” regardless of their interest in being vaccinated by MIT, MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis ’90 and Vice Chancellor and Chair of the MIT Vaccine Planning Team Ian Waitz wrote in an email Feb. 3.

The form asks individuals to indicate whether they are interested in receiving the vaccine from MIT and to provide basic demographic information, as well as that of family members or dependents who may also want to receive the vaccine from MIT.

Stuopis and Waitz also wrote that responses to the eligibility form “will be kept private” and are not binding. If respondents “receive the vaccine elsewhere” or “change their mind about receiving the vaccine,” they can update their responses to the form at any time.

Stuopis and Waitz wrote that Massachusetts’ vaccination phase, as determined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and “how regularly and in what volume” MIT receives doses from the state influence whether individuals can receive vaccinations. 

Waitz asked attendees at the Feb. 17 faculty meeting to “encourage” those around them to respond to the form. “We need to increase the response rate” to “be as prepared as possible when and if we have vaccines.”

As of Feb. 16, the eligibility form has a response rate of 73% among academic and residential faculty and senior leaders, 66% among graduate students, and 59% among undergraduate students, according to Waitz and Stuopis’ presentation at the faculty meeting. The response rate is lower for support and service staff, though they “might fall into some of the more vulnerable categories for being at risk,” Stuopis said.

Stuopis said at the faculty meeting that MIT had administered 1,093 first and 497 second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to eligible community members in phase 1 and the beginning of phase 2. Stuopis added that MIT’s ability to vaccinate community members is limited by the vaccination phase and the number of vaccines being provided by the Commonwealth. 

Phase 1 of vaccination in Massachusetts took place between December 2020 and February 2021 and prioritized healthcare workers, first responders, and those in long-term care facilities, rest homes, assisted living facilities, and congregate care settings.

Phase 2 is taking place with four groups: the first is individuals over the age of 75, the second is individuals over the age of 65, individuals with more than two certain medical conditions, or residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing.

The first group in phase 2 became eligible to receive vaccines starting Feb. 1. The second group is eligible starting Feb. 18.

According to Stuopis, the population in Massachusetts that meets the conditions of the second group of phase 2 is expected to exceed one million people. Stuopis said that in the MIT population, there are approximately 8,000–10,000 individuals who meet the criteria of the second group.

Stuopis also said that although MIT is “ready, willing, and able,” the Commonwealth has ceased making vaccine deliveries to medical groups like MIT Medical, making it “hard” to do “large-scale vaccination.”

Stuopis added that she would be “highly surprised” if MIT receives “any vaccine for the remainder of phase two,” based on communication from the state.

Waitz wrote that “for the next couple of weeks,” MIT community members may be “more likely to find” a vaccination “appointment at one of the large state facilities than they are at the MIT Medical facility.”

Reif wrote that MIT Medical asks MIT community members to “not call or email them seeking a vaccine appointment.” Also, they should not “wait to receive their shot from MIT” if they “have another option for getting vaccinated sooner.”

The remaining two groups of Massachusetts’ phase 2 are workers (including early education and K-12, food service, public health, transit, vaccine development, court system, medical supply chain, etc. workers) and individuals with one certain medical condition. 

Phase 3 includes groups that are not listed in Phase 1 or 2. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts expects that this phase will launch in April.