The Rhode Island Department of Health provided the following COVID-19 vaccination update on Friday.

Rhode Island COVID-19 Vaccination Update

Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) are writing to provide an update on Rhode Island’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts. As of this afternoon, 448,768 people have received one dose of vaccine. A total of 316,983 people have received two doses of vaccine. See the data.

We continue to be in the top 10 states nationally for the number of people who have received at least one dose and fourth in the country for the number of people fully vaccinated. We are also first in the country for vaccinating people age 65 and older with 79% fully vaccinated. We have fully vaccinated more than 300,000 people in our state and continue to work to get more vaccine to our most vulnerable communities.

On Friday, April 16, at 5 p.m., approximately 16,000 vaccine appointments will go live on vaccinateRI.org. If you need help scheduling an appointment, call the automated phone line at 844-930-1779.

We administered 79,467 doses last week, and we project administering 68,200 doses this week. The week-over-week decrease is a reflection of fluctuations in the supply we get from the federal government.

Everyone should get vaccinated once eligible. It is safe, it is effective, and more vaccine is coming into Rhode Island each week.

COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Opens for All

COVID-19 vaccination eligibility will open next week for ALL Rhode Islanders, age 16 and older.

Beginning Monday, April 19, people age 16 years of age and older are eligible to make appointments to be vaccinated. That eligibility change will happen at 9 a.m. on Monday on www.vaccinateRI.org.

There may be a small amount of appointments still available at that time, of the appointments that will get posted on Friday afternoon. A new batch of appointments will also be posted on www.vaccinateRI.org on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. New appointments for State-run sites open every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and every Friday at 5 p.m. 

At this time, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for people age 16 and older. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for people age 18 and older.

This group of people age 16 to 39 includes approximately 258,000 people. Not everyone will get an appointment right away. However, we still remain on track to meet our goals.

By May 15, we expect 70% of Rhode Islanders age 16 and older to have at least one dose of vaccine. 

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine Pause

On Wednesday, we paused administering the Janssen vaccine. Both the CDC and the FDA recommended a pause, and we are following this recommendation.

The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported cases of a rare blood clot in people who received the Janssen vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is a group that advises the CDC, met on April 14 and will meet again next week.

The CDC and the FDA are taking this seriously, as they should. But it is also important for us to keep things in perspective.

First, this shows us that the monitoring systems we have in place are working. After six reported cases of this blood clot, we were able to take action.

Second, out of the 6.8 million Janssen doses administered in the United States, there were six reported cases of this blood clot. That is less than one in a million.

In Rhode Island, we have administered roughly 31,000 Janssen doses, so that one in a million likelihood – which is already very low – is actually even much lower for us.

One reason why the CDC and FDA have taken this step is to educate healthcare providers on signs of these rare blood clots, as well as provide them with information about how to treat and report them.

To people who got the Janssen vaccine more than a month ago, your risk is VERY low. If you got the Janssen vaccine in the last three weeks, your risk is ALSO very low. Again, we are talking about a VERY rare event.

However, you still want to be alert to some symptoms, such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. These symptoms are different than the mild flu-like symptoms many people experience in the few days after receiving vaccine. If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact a healthcare provider.

People who signed up for the Janssen vaccine to be given at a State-run clinic have been notified. They will now receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. We are also working with community clinics and pharmacies to make sure that everyone who had signed up for a shot gets one.

Please do not let this deter you from taking your shot. We will do more communicating over the coming days so Rhode Islanders who have received the Janssen vaccine are aware.

Again, this experience shows that the systems we have in place to make sure that vaccines are safe WORK. The vaccines we have are effective and safe.

Janssen Vaccine Supply

We received 59,000 doses of vaccine this week, which includes 2,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine. We will hold this vaccine. Refrigerated Janssen vaccine is good for up to three months, so we are able to hold this vaccine while federal officials review the pause.

The 2,000 doses is not a very significant amount of vaccine. It represents about 3% of the vaccine we get in the average week. We also do not expect this pause to impact our goals.

COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts Continue in Hard-Hit Communities

Under our Hard-Hit Community Vaccination strategy, we continue to work to get vaccine to our hardest hit communities.

We have been working closely with our Equity Council to make sure we have reserved slots at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this Saturday for people from hard-hit communities.

If you are part of a hard-hit community and have not yet had access to a shot, call 2-1-1 and ask to be booked for an Equity-Focused Clinic appointment.

Public Transportation to Vaccine Sites

Starting Monday, April 19, RIPTA will offer free transportation for anyone traveling to or from a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.

With many of the vaccine sites on RIPTA bus routes, this should make access even easier. The Federal Transit Administration recently approved federal funding for this program.

Many vaccination sites across the state are accessible by public transportation.

To view transportation routes and any possible walking distances, visit www.ripta.com and enter your travel information into RIPTA’s Trip Planner on the homepage. The website also has detailed maps and timetables for every RIPTA route.

For more information or to take advantage of this program, please contact RIPTA Customer Service by e-mailing CustomerService@RIPTA.com or by calling 781-9400.

While you are on the bus, please take a picture with your mask on and hopefully, a “vaccinated” sticker, and use the hashtag “#Vaccinate401” so we can keep the momentum going. Masks are always required on RIPTA vehicles.

Cancellation Emails

Last week, we identified an issue where cancellation emails were sent in error to roughly 1,400 people. These appointments were not actually canceled and all those who got the email were contacted.

We are taking the issue very seriously. The State Police are also reviewing this matter. We will provide updates when more information becomes available.

Vaccine Data

The biggest takeaway from recent data is that the vaccines WORK. We are seeing the impacts in groups of people who have been eligible to get vaccinated.

Among people who have been fully vaccinated, only .1% have later tested positive for COVID-19. In other words, of fully vaccinated people, 99.9% have NOT gotten COVID-19.

Please Cancel Appointments No Longer Needed

We are seeing more “no shows” at vaccination sites and last-minute cancellations. This may be because people make multiple appointments and forget to cancel the ones they do not use.

When this happens, we lose the opportunity to offer this appointment to another Rhode Islander.

If you cannot make it to your appointment, please cancel as early as possible. To cancel an appointment, click on the “cancel” option in your confirmation email or email RIDOH.COVID19Questions@health.ri.gov with your request.

Vaccine Interest Notification List

To learn when a vaccination appointment opens for you at one of our State-run sites, you can sign up for the Vaccine Interest Notification List (VINL). People can sign up at portal.ri.gov or by calling 844-930-1779.

VINL is one way you can register for vaccination. For other ways to register for vaccine and for more information about VINL, visit C19vaccineRI.org.

FEMA to Hire Staff For Community Vaccination Centers

FEMA is currently hiring non-medical vaccine support staff for community vaccination centers. You must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and possess a valid ID. The deadline to apply is May 3.

To apply or for more information, visit usajobs.gov and search for “FEMA.”

Upcoming Webinar: Bring THE CONVERSATION to YOUR Community!

On April 20 at 1 p.m. ET, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black Coalition Against COVID will host a webinar about their new digital toolkit designed to reach communities of color with credible, fact-based information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

The event is presented in partnership with the American Indian Movement, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Public Health Information Coalition. Registration is available here

Additional Resources 

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.  

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp, LLC. Belmore has led What's Up Newp since December 2012. Belmore also serves as the Sr. Editor - North America for Mountain News - publisher of OnTheSnow. In his spare time, Belmore serves as the Vice President for the Board of Directors at Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors at Lucy's Hearth. Belmore is also a member and supporter of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.