BOSTON — People seeking COVID-19 vaccines no longer have to wait to get their shots at most of the state's large-scale vaccination sites or retail pharmacies.
Beginning Monday, mass vaccination sites such as the Marriott DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, pharmacies that include CVS and Walgreens, and many community health centers began giving vaccinations to people walking in without an appointment.
Gov. Charlie Baker said the move is due to a surplus of vaccines after months of shortages. It will allow the state "to reach many more of our residents and build on the national leading success we've had in distributing vaccines," he said.
"We still have a lot of work to do to reach the folks who haven't been vaccinated yet, some of whom are part of the wait-and-see category," Baker said at a briefing Monday. "But our goal is to reduce as many barriers as we possibly can to provide access and information, and hope that they will join us in getting vaccinated."
State health officials say people can still schedule vaccine appointments online. The state's vaccine finder website has information about walk-in hours.
The state's other mass vaccination sites operate at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Natick Mall, the Hynes Convention Center and Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, and the former Circuit City in Dartmouth. Appointments are still required for vaccines given at Gillette Stadium.
Besides pharmacies, local health groups are accepting walk-ins. Beth Israel Lahey Health now allows anyone 18 and older to become vaccinated without appointments at clinics in Beverly, Cambridge and Plymouth.
More than 2.9 million people in Massachusetts were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the state Department of Public Health. More than 3.8 million received at least one shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Baker has set a goal of vaccinating at least 4.1 million residents by June, a target he says the state is on track to meet. The state has about 7 million residents.
Massachusetts has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, following New Hampshire, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the elderly and other vulnerable populations vaccinated, the state is shifting its vaccine strategy from a focus on large sites to community-based and regional vaccine sites, mobile clinics and primary care doctors.
The changes will involve winding down mass sites, including the one in Danvers, over the next few months.
Last week, President Joe Biden directed all pharmacies participating in the federal COVID-19 vaccination partnership to begin providing walk-in hours.
Biden also set a new goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults at least one shot by July 4. He said the new phase in the federal government's vaccine distribution plan is about convincing hesitant people to get jabbed.
"Now that we have the vaccine supply, we’re focused on convincing even more Americans to show up and get the vaccine that's available to them," Biden said in remarks last week. "There are millions of Americans who just need a little bit of encouragement to get the shot."
For more information, visit the state's VaxFinder website: https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.