Providence City Councilors say they want to ensure equity moving forward in city’s vaccination plans

Providence was able to vaccinate almost 900 residents who were 75 or older this past weekend.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) –  Providence City Council members are trying to take stock of the effort to vaccinate residents that were 75 plus over the weekend, after the state unexpectedly had leftover vaccine doses available.

Council members called it a herculean effort to get done at a meeting Tuesday night, but said they’re concerned about the vaccine being distributed equitably going forward.

Cities and towns were only given a few days notice that the state had 5000 doses of vaccine leftover that would be made available to those 75 and older.

Providence ended up with almost 900 doses.

“For us it was really important that we not send one dose back,” said City of Providence Chief of External Affairs Theresa Agonia. “We had to make sure that 880 doses were put in the arms of residents in the City of Providence.”

Agonia explained that the city went to clinics like Providence Community Health Center and Clinic Esperanza, as well as senior services organizations, to enlist their help in getting in touch with those that would be eligible to get vaccinated over the weekend.

But Council President Sabina Matos indicated that her and other council members weren’t totally aware of the initial process to fill the vaccination slots.

“My hope is that if we are found to be in the situation again, the process of notifying individuals that qualify for the vaccine is more broad,” said Matos.

Though council members praised the effort, they said there was a lot they hope to improve on, like consistent and clear messaging through a dedicated notification system, as well as catering to populations that aren’t technologically savvy, or speak a different language.

“We got it out, I think that’s great. I think we caused a lot of anxiety in the process,” said Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan.

Council members said they were also asked to reach out to their districts to try and fill any open slots.

“We felt uncomfortable in that process, saying, is this equitable, is this fair. No one wants to jump the line here,” said Ryan.

“I didn’t feel OK calling, reaching out to individuals to send you the names, because I’m not sure if someone else that needs it more than who I’m sending you, is not getting it,” added Matos.

They say they also heard from constituents concerned about how the city would notify them when there was more vaccine available.

City and state officials agreed that it was rushed, and said they are still building out the infrastructure to make everything as efficient as possible.

Council members say that next they want to see the data of which zip codes these first patients came from, to determine the most equitable next steps.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Rhode Island