R.I. health officials waiting CDC approval to roll out COVID-19 booster shot

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Health experts and state officials in Rhode Island are preparing to roll out a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised people upon approval of the CDC’s expert advisory panel.

This comes just a day after the FDA approved the booster shot for those with weakened immune systems, which includes organ transplant recipients, chemotherapy patients, and those on medications that suppress their immune system.

ABC 6 News spoke to a local doctor who is a member of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee about how the booster shot would be rolled out in the Ocean State.

“We haven’t yet talked on the vaccine subcommittee about rolling out the booster vaccine yet, but it looks like it’s going to be under the guidance of the CDC and NIH and Dr. Fauci primarily for immunocompromised people,” Dr. Wilfredo Giordano-Perez said.

Dr. Giordano-Perez is the Medical Director at Tri-County Health. He says it’s likely they’ll roll the shot out through primary care offices first depending on the size of the population eligible.

“Patients trust their primary care providers the most and we can do the most education one on one with them,” Dr. Giordano-Perez said. “I can’t imagine us getting a large percentage of the population again without opening up vaccine clinics again and having those mass vaccine sites.”

Right now, the booster shot would only be available to those with Pfizer or Moderna. ABC 6 News asked Dr. Giordano-Perez what that means for those who got the Johnson & Johnson shot.

“For now, we don’t have enough information that there’s efficacy waning,” Dr. Giordano-Perez said. “Hold tight — still, they’ve got fantastic protection with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They haven’t released their 6-month efficacy data yet.”

With breakthrough cases and the virus mutating, Dr. Giordano-Perez says a booster shot may be in everyone’s future.

“Right now with the delta variant, we’re seeing more and more people test positive,” Dr. Giordano-Perez said. “If things continue going the way they’re going with the delta variant and other variants developing, I think it’s very likely the general population will be offered a booster vaccine.”

ABC 6 News asked the Governor’s Office if there are any plans to reopen vaccine clinics or mass vaccination sites with approval of the booster shot. A spokesperson said they are working with the R.I. Department of Health on an answer to that.

On Friday afternoon, the Governor’s Office and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott released the following statement:

“The announcements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for certain immunocompromised people are great news. The COVID-19 vaccine already provides excellent protection against COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and fatalities, and this additional dose will give even more immunity to people who may be a little more vulnerable.

We are reviewing these new recommendations from our federal partners now, and are aiming to make third doses available for eligible populations in Rhode Island by early next week. More information will be made available to healthcare providers and the public in the coming days, including information on who is eligible. Ample vaccine supply exists in Rhode Island to meet this new demand and we have the infrastructure in place to move swiftly. For any eligible Rhode Islanders who have not yet gotten their first vaccine – it is time.”

ABC 6 News will keep you updated.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Rhode Island