With vaccine eligibility set to greatly expand and summer fast approaching, the Cape and Islands legislative delegation fired off a letter latetr last week to state officials urgently requesting more Covid-19 vaccine doses, as the process lags on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The letter was sent Friday, one day before signup eligibility was set to open for all Islanders over the age of 16 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

In an email Friday, hospital spokesman Marissa Lefebvre said 400 first-dose appointments would become available at the 8 a.m. online signups. An estimated 8,000 Islanders under the age of 55 will become eligible, according to 2019 Dukes County census data, tightening an already narrow bottleneck.

As expanded vaccinations begin, cases remain high on the Vineyard. In a weekly case recap Monday, health agents reported 77 new cases between April 10 and April 17, including 28 new cases from Friday. According to the report 41, are symptomatic, 22 are asymptomatic and 14 are unknown.

There are now 88 active cases on the Island, including 11 from before April 10.

A large number of them are among people in their 30s and children under the age of 19, health agents said.

In the April 13 letter addressed to state Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes and state Sen. Julian Cyr said the dual threat of a coming population boom on the Island and federal vaccine priorities that favor pharmacies have created a difficult situation for Islanders seeking shots.

The letter notes that the Biden administration will expand vaccine output to 40,000 retail pharmacies as part of its rollout program — but that neither Martha’s Vineyard nor Nantucket have a qualifying pharmacy.

“We write to you requesting that you consider the special circumstances on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket when executive the next phase of vaccine distribution in the weeks ahead,” they wrote. “Progress is now stalling, as more Island residents become eligible but do not have ready access to the state mass vaccination sites nor to the federal pharmacy program. With such programmatic and geographic limitations, it’s vital that vaccine supply from the Commonwealth to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard increase and be sustained.”

According to the letter, the hospital has explored collaboration with the Island’s federally qualified health center, Island Health Care, to receive vaccine doses, but the partnership has not yet materialized. The letter also noted that Island essential workers have been forced to make the expensive trip off-Island for shots because of the low supply in recent weeks, and that summer rental bookings indicate busy summer seasons

“Island hospitals . . . have proven adept at efficiently administering vaccines,” the state legislators wrote. “We strongly encourage you to rely on these Island grown assets so that we can vaccinate as many Island residents as possible before hundreds of thousands of visitors vacation on the Islands in the coming months.”

The legislators join a growing chorus of Island officials and organizations pressing for larger vaccine allocations from the state, including the Dukes County Commission and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

According to the state Department of Public Health, 52 per cent of the Dukes County 2019 census population has received a first-dose vaccine, trailing only Barnstable and Nantucket counties in the state. About 38 per cent of the population has received a second dose shot, the highest rate in the state.

To sign up for a vaccine appointment, go to mvhospital.org and click “schedule my Covid-19 vaccine.” Signups open at 8 a.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Monday.