coronavirus in Rhode Island

The AARP in Rhode Island is asking the state to prioritize residents over the age of 50 to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, giving greater weight to not only those in extended care facilities, but also those receiving long-term support in their homes. 

Additionally, the association is calling for more transparency, urging the state to consistently post information and updates on vaccine administration on a public website.

The AARP detailed its “recommendations” in a letter sent Friday to Gov. Raimondo, the same day she was being announced as President-elect Joseph Biden’s choice for Commerce Secretary.

In Rhode Island, the AARP said it has 132,000 members. Not coincidentally, the AARP’s minimum membership age is 50, the same age the association asks to be considered for priority COVID vaccinations. 

The state, according to the Department of Health Website, has prioritized first responders, medical personnel, staff and residents of long-term facilities, various mental health, and funeral professionals, and those over the age of 75 in its first phase.

The AARP letter was sent to the governor from Kathleen Connell, AARP RI state director, and Phil Zarlengo, AARP RI state president. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, over 95 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among people 50 and older,” the letter said. “The data clearly show that the older people are, the higher risk they face if they contract COVID-19.  Given that older individuals are at a greater risk of death from COVID-19, we strongly urge you to ensure that Rhode Islanders age 50 and older are prioritized to receive a vaccine.  These individuals must be given priority access to vaccines, in addition to those individuals receiving care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”

The letter goes on to urge the state to priorities not only those in long-term care facilities, but those “who receive long-term services and supports in their own homes and communities.”

Connell and Zarlengo said that for a “significant percentage” of Rhode Islanders services are provided in homes, assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, veterans’ homes.

They also called for more transparence to raise public awareness of vaccine allocations and improve confidence in the fairness of the vaccine distribution system.

“It is important that all Rhode Islanders have access to accurate and transparent information,” the letter said.  “For those reasons, we urge you to regularly post on a public website information and updates on vaccine administration including:

∙       The numbers and percentages of older Rhode Islanders by race and ethnicity, that have been vaccinated.

∙       The number of Rhode Islanders vaccinated and their age demographics on a daily and weekly basis.

∙       A clear and easy-to-understand schedule of vaccine administration for all populations, and the process by which individuals may seek and obtain a vaccine.

∙       The numbers and percentages of long-term care residents, by facility, that have received their first and second doses of vaccines.

∙       The numbers and percentages of long-term care staff, by facility, that have received their first and second doses of vaccines.

The AARP also asked Raimondo to assure that “all providers are fully complying with established state procedures for vaccine distribution and prioritization.  We urge you to investigate and take swift action against anyone who attempts to commit fraud, including by inappropriately selling the vaccine or intentionally providing vaccines to those who do not meet qualifying criteria to circumvent the distribution process. 

“Public confidence in the vaccine and its fair distribution is dependent on the state’s strong oversight and enforcement.