The NFL season is over, vaccination season is upon us: all over the country, states have started to administer Coronavirus vaccines. In Massachusetts, one of the mass vaccination sites is located at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. With the team not playing any postseason football in January 2021, the stadium was transformed to allow vaccine distribution on a grand scale.
After starting with 300 vaccinations per day according to the State’s Phase 1 distribution timeline, the site has since increased its capacity to more than 4,000 daily. This has allowed it to reach a significant milestone this week: the 65,878th person was vaccinated on Tuesday.
Why is that number important? It is the exact seating capacity of Gillette Stadium.
79-year-old Brigette Peters received that symbolic dose, and not just that: the Patriots also surprised her with two tickets to their 2021 home opener.
Receive the 65,878th vaccination at @GilletteStadium: ✅— New England Patriots (@Patriots) February 16, 2021
Win tickets to the home opener from @PatPatriot: ✅
Tonight we reached 65,878 vaccines administered, one for every seat in the building. pic.twitter.com/6shoLZbVrM
“That’s exciting. Watch when I tell my grandkids, they’ll be more excited than me,” Peters told NBC Boston after receiving her vaccination in one of the stadium’s west-side suites.
While it remains to be seen how many people will be allowed to ultimately watch home games during the 2021 season, the Patriots’ press release of the 65,878th vaccination being administered had an optimistic tone to it:
Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 and for the first 18 seasons (2002-2019) the New England Patriots played every game (167) before capacity crowds. But, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those 65,878 seats were vacant in 2020. Vaccinations provide the greatest hope for a return to normalcy and playing before capacity crowds once again in 2021.
Due to Coronavirus regulations in Massachusetts, the Patriots did not host any spectators at their eight home games during the 2020 regular season. With no home field advantage provided by fans, the team went just 5-3 at Gillette Stadium en route to a disappointing final record of 7-9.
Missing the playoffs, however, has allowed the team to transform its stadium into a mass vaccination site. It opened with a soft launch on January 14, followed by the official vaccination process kicking off four days later for first responders and health care workers.
“Gillette Stadium is accustomed to accommodating large audiences and we are honored to provide a safe location to expedite the vaccination of first responders, and to soon expand to residents throughout the Commonwealth,” the stadium operators said in a statement released in January. “We are proud to do our part and grateful to the incredible team of people whose championship-caliber efforts will help save lives and defend against the spread of this virus.”
The state is planning to have 165 vaccination sites set up this month. At Gillette Stadium, meanwhile, the plan is to further keep increasing capacities in the days and weeks ahead.