Speaker-nominee K. Joseph Shekarchi yesterday announced the establishment of a House of Representatives task force to oversee the state’s implementation of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The purpose of the task force is to ensure that Rhode Island’s distribution of the vaccine is done in a timely manner following the CDC guidelines and that front-line workers, the health-compromised and the elderly are given access first, and also to make certain the needs of the underserved populations are appropriately addressed. The task force will work closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health and learn about the state’s vaccine plan.

“The stakes are very high here, and we need to do our absolute best with getting this vaccine to our population as quickly as possible. This is a time to come together, to work swiftly and carefully, and ensure that we vaccinate in a way that protects the most people and the most at-risk people as soon as we can. Distribution of the vaccine will doubtlessly be complicated by the fact that it is coming out the midst of a surge that is already pushing the limits of our health care system and those incredibly dedicated professionals who work in it, as well as our communities,” said Speaker-nominee Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “This task force is to support everyone involved, to help address hurdles and ultimately to protect the health of Rhode Islanders and get us to the other side of this pandemic as soon as possible.”

The task force will also learn more about the state’s involvement as one of four states in the Pfizer’s pilot program to test distribution of the vaccine.

The task force will be chaired by Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence). Other members of the task force are:

  • Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry)
  • Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown)
  • Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls)
  • Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett)
  • Representative-elect Michelle E. McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton)
  • Rep. Mary Duffy Messier (D-Dist.62, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist.25, Coventry, West Warwick)
  • Rep. David J. Place (R-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester)

The task force will meet virtually, with its first meeting scheduled Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. with Dr. Michael Fine, chief health strategist for the city of Central Falls and senior clinical and population health services officer of Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, Inc. Dr. Fine served as the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health from 2011 to 2015, and has spent his career developing systems for and directly providing health care to underserved communities.

The task force is expected to meet virtually twice more in December, and then will continue to meet in 2021.