Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) provided the following COVID-19 Vaccination Update via email on Friday.

Rhode Island COVID-19 Vaccination Update

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is writing to provide an update on Rhode Island’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts. As of this afternoon, 52,925 people have received one dose of vaccine. A total of 13,145 people have received two doses of vaccine and are fully immunized against COVID-19. See the data.

We are working hard to distribute vaccines, but supply is very limited. Right now, we’re receiving enough first doses each week for about 1.5% of our population. Other states are in the same position. Rhode Island ranks among the top states nationally in terms of second doses administered per 100,000 people. And we are administering our limited doses of vaccine in a way that will have the greatest impact on the health of our state.

When Will I Receive My Vaccine?
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented hardship and loss for so many of our families, friends, and neighbors. Given this, we understand that many Rhode Islanders are anxious to know when they and their loved ones will be eligible to receive vaccines.

The aim of Phase 1 has been to ensure the stability of our healthcare system and protect our long-term care facilities, as well as to start vaccinating in some of our hardest hit areas.

Currently, we are focusing on vaccinating healthcare providers. There are about 65,000 licensed healthcare providers in Rhode Island. Healthcare providers are critical to our response to COVID-19. We would absolutely get all healthcare providers vaccinated right away, if we had enough vaccine. Since supply is very limited, we are taking a stepwise approach. We started with the highest exposure workers in hospitals, and then started vaccinating EMS professionals, and are now getting to our outpatient healthcare providers.

We are also focused on protecting vulnerable Rhode Islanders in long-term care facilities that have been hit hard by this pandemic. We began vaccinating in nursing homes in December. This week, we started to vaccinate in assisted living facilities and other congregate living settings. By the middle of February, we expect the vaccine will be available for adults 75 and older. The chart below shows the progress in vaccinating these groups.

We have received a lot of questions about vaccination of older adults. In Rhode Island, there are close to 190,000 Rhode Islanders age 65 or older. Since we are only getting about 14,000 first doses of vaccine a week, we are taking a stepwise approach with this group as well.

We recently started vaccinating members of this group through the federal pharmacy partnership with CVS and Walgreens. Nearly half of our doses of vaccine have been dedicated to long-term care facilities to fulfill the partnership agreement and protect Rhode Islanders at high risk from hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. However, the amount of doses used to protect this group reduces the amount of doses available to vaccinate other large populations. We would vaccinate ALL eligible Rhode Islanders tomorrow if we had enough vaccine, but we just don’t. We are hopeful that the federal government will increase our supply in the near future so we can get to additional groups more quickly.

Please note that there is no action that older adults need to take at this time to get a vaccine. When we are ready to start vaccinating this population, we will communicate with the public, healthcare providers, and community organizations to provide instructions. We will also continue to share updates through this newsletter. 

We are prioritizing groups in order to decrease hospitalizations and deaths. Early vaccination of the highest risk people will achieve this and allow us to ease up on restrictions. We received feedback today from Rhode Island’s COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee on vaccinating additional priority groups. This feedback will help us finalize plans to distribute more vaccine going forward.

Moving forward, we are focusing on protecting Rhode Islanders most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. We plan on releasing more information next week, so everyone knows what to expect. Ordering, receiving, redistributing, storing, and administering vaccine is a very complex process, but the system is working well. We are grateful for everybody’s patience as we work to distribute our limited supply of vaccine as quickly as possible.

Where Will I Receive My Vaccine?

The chart below shows where different groups will get vaccinated next week.

Myth-busting

We want you to be aware of several myths circulating about the COVID-19 vaccine. These myths, which are completely not true, claim the vaccine:

  • Causes infertility or an increased risk of infertility;
  • Alters your DNA;
  • Gives you COVID-19.

There is no scientific basis to these claims. There is also no evidence that COVID-19 vaccine causes increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies of any kind. Several national medical organizations have put out statements that say as much, such as this statement from the American Society for Reproductive medicine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also shared information on vaccines during pregnancy here.
 
We understand you may have questions and go online to find answers. We recommend people rely on trusted sources of information, such as established news and medical organizations, and your own healthcare provider.

What Should I Do While I Wait for the Vaccine?

While the vaccine rollout will take time, there is a lot you can do in the meantime to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Testing is more available now than it has ever been in Rhode Island. If you go online right now to portal.ri.gov, you can make a same-day appointment to get tested at many sites throughout the state. If you test positive, Rhode Island also has a new doctor-recommended treatment. This fast, easy, and highly effective treatment helps keep you from getting sicker and being hospitalized. However, the earlier you start treatment, the more effective it is. If you test positive for COVID-19 and are 65 or older or have an underlying health condition, immediately call your healthcare provider and ask about treatment for COVID-19. You can find out more information about this treatment here

What If I Already Got My Vaccine? 

While the COVID-19 vaccine offers some immunity against the virus, it is still unknown whether you can become infected and spread the virus to others. After receiving the vaccine, it’s important to continue to wear your mask, social distance, get tested if you have symptoms, and isolate if you are a close contact of someone who tested positive.

Looking Ahead

We are working as hard as possible to deliver vaccines as safely, equitably, and quickly as possible as we continue the fight against COVID-19. Despite the challenges with our limited supply, we are making good progress. Our supply may increase over time as manufacturers ramp up production and more vaccines are authorized.
 
We will continue to share regular updates as more information becomes available. You can find updates on vaccination planning and answers to frequently asked questions on RIDOH’s COVID-19 Vaccine page

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.