NEWS

State steps up vaccine rollout with mass clinics, expanded age eligibility

Weather-related shipping delays push back shots at Cranston’s city-run site

By DANIEL KITTREDGE
Posted 2/24/21

Vaccination against COVID-19 is now available for Rhode Islanders 65 and older, while state and local officials say weather-related shipping delays have forced postponement of some scheduled …

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NEWS

State steps up vaccine rollout with mass clinics, expanded age eligibility

Weather-related shipping delays push back shots at Cranston’s city-run site

Posted

Vaccination against COVID-19 is now available for Rhode Islanders 65 and older, while state and local officials say weather-related shipping delays have forced postponement of some scheduled appointments for shots at the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center site for city residents 75 and older.

In a statement Monday, Mayor Ken Hopkins’s office announced that a delay in the arrival of doses from the federal level mean shots that were due to be administered Tuesday would instead be given Friday. An eight-week vaccination program for the city’s oldest residents began at the Senior Center lastweek.

In a subsequent statement, the state Department of Health said “severe weather… has affected distribution nationwide.”

“A shipment of approximately 12,400 doses of Moderna vaccine to Rhode Island did not arrive today,” it reads. “The community clinics scheduled for tomorrow at the Cranston Senior Center, the Swift Community Center (in East Greenwich), and the West Warwick Civic Center are affected by this delay and are being rescheduled. People who had appointments will be contacted directly by clinic organizers.”

Elsewhere, operations have started at two large, state-run vaccination sites – one at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, the other at the former Citizens Bank office building on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston.


Vaccinations for Rhode Islanders 75 and older began at those sites on Feb. 18. On Monday, registration was opened to those 65 and older.

Registration can be done online at www.VaccinateRI.org. An automated phone line, 844- 930-1779, is also available.

Appointments can be made by the person seeking a vaccine or by someone else on their behalf.

In a follow-up statement Monday, the Department of Health said: “Approximately 9,900 Rhode Islanders were vaccinated at the two-State run sites over their first three days of operation, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

More than 10,000 new appointments will be made available today. Rhode Island’s vaccine administration rate has increased by 89% over the last 6 weeks. In December, an average of 1,300 doses were administered per day. That figure was 2,700 doses per day in January and climbed to 5,100 doses per day in February.

More than 203,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date in Rhode Island.”

In another email update Tuesday, the department wrote: “On our first day of eligibility for people 65 and older yesterday, 17,081 appointments were made for the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and Sockanosset Cross Road. An additional 2,412 appointments were made available this morning.


More than 30,000 appointments have been made for the two sites since Rhode Island moved to age-based vaccinating last week. This is all in addition to the vaccinating being done by pharmacies and by cities and towns.”

Up until Monday, the state’s approach to the rollout has made COVID-19 vaccination available to Rhode Islanders based on factors like risk and profession – nursing home residents and first responders, for example – as well as age,with a limit on those 75 and older.


During a Zoom call with reporters last week, Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander- Scott said the expanded availability is in keeping with the schedule set out in the state’s age-based rollout strategy.

Acknowledging the criticism of Rhode Island’s rollout to date, however, she added: “I know people want doses administered more quickly. We hear you, and we agree as well. We get it 100 percent.”


Alexander-Scott said municipalities will continue to focus their locally run clinics on residents 75 and older, an approach she indicated has yielded positive results.


When vaccination for the 65- plus population opens, those residents are being advised to utilize the state-run system. CVS and Walgreens also continue to offer vaccination appointments, which are being expanded to include those 65 and older.


Moving forward, Alexander- Scott said there are plans for a more centralized registration process as younger age groups become eligible for shots. That system, she said, will include the staterun sites and the local and regional “pods” that are being developed. The two pharmacy chains, she said, will continue to maintain a separate registration system.


Alexander-Scott said steps are being taken to make the online and phone registration processes “a little more user friendly.” “More appointments will be added as we go … We’re asking people to be patient,” she said.

A statement from the Department of Health also announced the launch of a new “Vaccine Information Notification  List” for those under the age of 65. The list, the statement reads, will allow those who sign up to “get updates as eligibility opens to new groups,” adding: “Enrolling in this list does not guarantee an appointment for vaccination.” Signup can be completed at www.portal.ri.gov


In another piece of welcome news, Alexander-Scott told reporters last week that the state’s weekly allotment of vaccine from the federal government – which has been approximately 16,000 for several weeks – has increased to 22,500 for this week. That amount is expected to remain steady for at least three weeks.

Alexander-Scott said the additional doses are being provided partially through an increase in supply, but that a shift on the part ofdrug manufacturer Pfizer – which is now advising that six doses, rather than five, can be drawn from a single vial – is a significant factor.

In another development, the Department of Health announced Monday that the state’s two field hospital sites – one at the former Citizens Bank building in Cranston, the other at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence – are being taken offline in the weeks ahead because of Rhode Island’s “improving data situation.”


The Convention Center will suspend its patient treatment on Feb. 26, while the “last day for patient care at Sockanosset will likely be in the next two to three weeks.”


According to figures provided by the state, 208 patients have been treated at the Cranston site since its opening. At the Convention Center, 444 patients have been treated.

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