March 23 oversight hearing will probe tech, planning

Political News

BOSTON (SHNS) – Lawmakers on Friday announced they will hold the second in a series of oversight hearings probing the Baker administration’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout on March 23, this time focused on technology issues and disaster planning that had been in place before the public health crisis.

The Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management invited Gov. Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Samantha Phillips, and Department of Public Health Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management Director Kerin Milesky to testify on behalf of the administration.

At the upcoming hearing, members of the committee plan to raise questions about technology infrastructure, which has faced significant scrutiny in the wake of a vaccine appointment website crash, as well as public health and emergency response plans crafted before the pandemic, according to chairs Rep. Bill Driscoll and Sen. Jo Comerford.

The panel flagged concerns about the equity and efficacy of the vaccine rollout at its first hearing on Feb. 25. In response to a question from Driscoll as he finished his testimony, Baker said at the time he would be willing to return for the second hearing.

“The first oversight hearing of the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management was productive, yet committee members emerged with more questions than answers,” Driscoll and Comerford said in a joint statement Friday. “At that hearing, the Governor noted the areas where the Commonwealth is leading in the vaccine rollout, but our legislative colleagues, local officials, frustrated constituents, and newly-released equity zip code data tell a different and painful story.”

Sen. Barry Finegold and Rep. Linda Dean Campbell will also be invited to testify.

The committee has not yet set a specific time for its hearing, which will be livestreamed on the Legislature’s website.

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