NEWS

Vaccine rollout enters next steps

Volunteers sought to staff Senior Center site; city set to receive 540 weekly doses for residents 75 and older

Posted 2/10/21

By DANIEL KITTREDGE As the administering of an initial batch of 390 COVID-19 vaccine doses to city residents 75 and older wrapped up this week, planning continued for the next steps in the local rollout. On Tuesday, Anthony Moretti, director of

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NEWS

Vaccine rollout enters next steps

Volunteers sought to staff Senior Center site; city set to receive 540 weekly doses for residents 75 and older

Posted

As the administering of an initial batch of 390 COVID-19 vaccine doses to city residents 75 and older wrapped up this week, planning continued for the next steps in the local rollout.

On Tuesday, Anthony Moretti, director of administration for Mayor Ken Hopkins, said Cranston will begin the next round of vaccinations for the city’s oldest residents starting Feb. 16 at the Senior Enrichment Center on Cranston Street.

The state has notified City Hall that Cranston will receive 540 doses of the Moderna vaccine in each of the next four weeks, Moretti said – a total of 2,160. Those doses will be administered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, by appointment, at the Senior Center. Then, during the four weeks that follow, seniors who received initial shots will return for their second dose.

As of Tuesday, Moretti said nearly 3,000 Cranston residents had registered for the shots through either the recently established online portal, located at CranstonVaccine.com, or by calling Given the high level of response, the number of doses the city is scheduled to be allotted at this point will not allow for all of the current registrants to be vaccinated in the coming eight-week round of the rollout.

Despite that, Moretti said the registration process remains ongoing to prepare for the arrival of a more robust supply.

“As we’re speaking, we’re taking more and more names,” he said.

In a statement last week announcing the launch of the CranstonVaccine.com registration tool, Hopkins said the “online form will make it easier for our community to sign-up for the vaccine once more are made available to our city from the state.” Registrants are asked to provide their name, address, date of birth, phone number and email address.

As was the case with the initial 390 doses, Moretti said Hopkins has chosen to continue with an age-based approach to scheduling appointments from among the list of names – in other words, starting with the oldest people and moving in a reverse chronological order.

As the release from Hopkins put it: “Following preregistration, qualifying applicants will be contacted by a city representative based on age with the oldest residents continuing to receive priority.”

Moretti said while other communities chose a first-come, first-serve approach to their initial rollout, Hopkins felt it would be fairer to use the oldest-to-youngest method – even though it proved “more labor intensive and a bit more frustrating” – because “so many of those citizens are not computer savvy and would be limited in their ability to pre-register online.”

“Just about everyone we spoke to … understood, with a couple of exceptions,” Moretti said.

The initial phase of the vaccine rollout was set in motion about two weeks ago, when state officials notified municipal leaders than roughly 5,000 vaccine doses would be distributed to Rhode Island’s cities and towns to administer to residents 75 and older.

How that process proceeded was almost entirely left up to individual communities. Cranston opted for a phone registration process, and Moretti said that for the city workers who took calls and scheduled appointments – including Hopkins and himself – “it was probably one of the most gratifying experiences we’ve had.”

That initial group of 390 Cranston residents has been vaccinated at a regional “pod” in East Greenwich. Last week’s winter storm delayed the process, which began Feb. 3. Shots that had been scheduled for Feb. 1-2 were instead rescheduled to Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Moretti said an internal Cranston task force – comprised of nearly 20 people, including members of the mayor’s office and representatives from various departments – has been meeting to develop and implement a local vaccination plan.

A “test run” at the Senior Center site was planned for Tuesday afternoon, he said. There are many facets of the operation to consider, he said – “from overseeing the parking lots to assisting the senior citizens with checking in,” as well as having medical personnel on hand to conduct post-vaccination health observations.

At present, Moretti said, Fire Department personnel are set to handle the administering of vaccines at the Senior Center site. He said the city is putting out a call for volunteers – including certified medical personnel – to help staff the site. Those interested are asked to apply via the city’s website, cranstonri.gov.

Moretti said the city’s allotment of vaccine will be picked up from a state distribution site by Fire Department personnel, accompanied by security. The doses will be stored in a locked, temperature controlled room accessible only to medical personnel.

Moretti also said that if the last senior is vaccinated and doses remain, “they will not throw the vials away,” instead administering them to someone on site. At the end of each day, he said, any remaining vaccine on site will be returned to the state distribution site.

In anticipation of prospective volunteers inquiring whether their work at the site would get them access to vaccination, Moretti said: “The state has not advised that that can be the case.”

In also remains unclear what form additional community-based vaccination sites will take in the weeks ahead. Moretti said the issue was discussed during a Monday Zoom meeting that included Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, state Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and municipal leaders.

“The next step is to look to establish various municipal distribution sites. How they’re going to be determined is still up in the air,” he said, adding: “We hope to have something more convenient [than East Greenwich].”

Another issue that emerged in the last week involves identification for people who are receiving vaccinations. Moretti on Tuesday said officials are “requesting proof of residency and age,” but that the documentation does not need to be government-issued.

Ward 3 City Councilman John Donegan wrote on Twitter recently that he had reached out to the Hopkins administration over concerns that a government-issued ID requirement would “present a significant barrier to vaccines for undocumented members of our community.”

“I’d like to thank Mayor Hopkins and Director of [Administration] Moretti for having this addressed and rectified,” Donegan wrote. “I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and my colleagues on the Council as we navigate these challenging times, and ensure an equitable and just recovery.”

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