State to open vaccine eligibility to all Rhode Islanders 16+ on Monday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Rhode Island is on track to open vaccine eligibility to all adults over the age of 16 on Monday, but not everyone will be able to book an appointment in the first week, the state said.

Tom McCarthy, executive director of the state’s COVID response, said in Thursday’s COVID briefing that roughly 258,000 people are part of the 16-39 age group in Rhode Island and “not everyone will get an appointment that first week.”

The state is releasing 16,000 appointments on Friday at 5 p.m. and additional appointments on Tuesday at 9 a.m. through the state’s vaccine portal.

Starting Monday, RIPTA will provide free transportation to anyone going to and from vaccination sites, Governor Dan McKee announced.

“We know that transportation can be a big barrier to getting people vaccinated,” said McKee.

McKee said more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders have been fully vaccinated and the state vaccinated roughly 50,000 people last week.

“Rhode Island continues to be a national leader in seniors vaccinated. We’re up to 78% of seniors vaccinated in the state of Rhode Island,” said McKee.

Also discussed Thursday was how the state is following federal guidance to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. McCarthy said the state received 59,000 doses of vaccine this week, 2,000 of that doses of the Janssen vaccine. He said they will store it, along with next week’s allotment of 700 doses.

“We’ll hold this vaccine, refrigerate it, Johnson and Johnson can be stored for up to three months, so we’re able to store this until officials at the federal level have completed their review,” McCarthy said. “In the near term, we don’t expect this Johnson & Johnson vaccine issue to significantly affect our projections or ability to hit our planning targets.”

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), assured people who’ve received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Rhode Island, saying the risk is extremely low for blood clots, adding that all vaccines are safe and work at preventing COVID-19.

“Among people who have been fully vaccinated, only 0.1% have later gone on to test positive for COVID-19. Another way of saying that is, of the people who have been fully vaccinated, 99.9% have not gotten COVID-19. That tells you how effectively the vaccines work,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott.

The state is starting to see a rise in people being no-shows and canceling vaccine appointments at the last minute at state-run sites. McCarthy asked people to cancel their appointments through their confirmation email if they are receiving a vaccine elsewhere.

“This may be because people are getting multiple appointments, forgetting to cancel, because they’re using an appointment at CVS and not using their appointment at a mass vaccination site.”

McCarthy said the state is still on track to have 70% of Rhode Islanders receive their first dose by May 15.

“Monday is gonna be a big day on that journey to 70%,” he said.

McCarthy added that there may be a small number of appointments available Monday from Friday’s push of new appointments, but more will be added Tuesday.

“In that new eligibility group, there are 258,000 Rhode Islanders that still need to be vaccinated. So what that means is not everyone will get an appointment that first week,” he said. “There will be a dose for everyone who wants to get vaccinated.”

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Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island