PROVIDENCE, RI — Phase two of Rhode Island's coronavirus vaccine distribution is in sight, meaning older residents and those most at risk will soon have the opportunity to get their shot. As soon as this weekend, certain residents over the age of 75 will begin to get vaccinated.
Because the supply of the vaccines remain limited, the Rhode Island Department of Health is taking a "strategic" approach to distribution, prioritizing those most at need, explained Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the department's director.
"Speed is only one of the measures of success," she said. "Who you vaccinate matters."
The first people to receive the vaccine in Rhode Island were frontline health care workers and nursing homes residents, in an effort to preserve the state's hospital infrastructure and avoid overwhelming the system. Now that effort is nearly completed, the department is looking ahead to the next group.
Residents 75 and older, who are most at risk of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19, are the next-highest priority. The first people to receive the vaccine in this group will be those on the state's emergency registry. They will be contacted by the Department of Health directly, and will receive their vaccine starting as soon as this weekend.
Other Rhode Islanders over the age of 75 can expect to be eligible for the vaccine within about two weeks, Alexander-Scott said. More information about how to sign up for an appointment will come in the next week or two.
"Going forward, age will continue to be the primary consideration," Alexander-Scott said.
The department is using three factors to determine who is prioritized: age, high-risk groups and communities that are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. High-risk individuals will be able to access the vaccine at the same time as those in their 60s, Alexander-Scott said.
There are five types of high-risk categories that will be prioritized for the vaccine. These are kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, the immunocompromised and lung disease.
Geographical considerations will be given to communities hit the hardest by the pandemic. This includes Central Falls and parts of Cranston, Providence, North Providence and Pawtucket.