Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, cited a short supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the state while arguing that despite those limitations the state is still doing well in doses per capita administered.
“Right now, the biggest challenge facing Rhode Island’s vaccine program — like most other states throughout the country — is that we are not receiving a lot of vaccine,” Alexander-Scott stated in her update.
“Still, we are doing the best we can with what we have. To date, we have administered more than 51,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Alexander-Scott said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Rhode Island ranked 20th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for the number of doses administered per capita, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It has administered about half of the total doses it has received.
“Our systems are working, and I’m proud of the job we’re doing. Getting those doses administered is very operationally complex. From beginning to end, it involves ordering, shipping, receiving, redistribution, and more. We’re grateful to everyone throughout the state who is working to make that happen,” Alexander-Scott said.
While offering details on those who have be vaccinated as of this week, Alexander-Scott highlighted the following:
Almost all of the nursing homes in the state were visited once.
Many hospital workers are receiving their second doses now and urgent care staff and respiratory clinic staff are getting vaccinated and the state also continues to hold clinics for EMS personnel, school nurses, and others, according to Alexander-Scott.
The Rhode Island National Guard is operating a clinic at Sockanosset for people who are doing COVID-19 testing, some pharmacy staff, and staff from the department’s two Alternate Hospital Sites.
Some limited vaccinating is still happening in Central Falls, Alexander-Scott noted.
Alexander-Scott also addressed federal recommendations for expanding the current vaccination program to additional eligibility for older Americans.
“There was a lot of news this week about the federal government urging states to vaccinate people who are 65 years of age and older,” Alexander-Scott noted.
“We want to get vaccine to people older than 65 too. The limiting factor is not federal rules, or our approach in Rhode Island. The limiting factor is the amount of vaccine we are getting,” the state health director said.
“We are getting 14,000 first doses of vaccine a week. There are close to 190,000 people in Rhode Island who are 65 years of age and older. It would not be honest or fair of us to say that all Rhode Islanders older than 65 can get vaccinated tomorrow, because we just don’t have the vaccine,” Alexander-Scott said.
The health director said there has been “confusion and frustration” occurring in other states that have opened up eligibility to groups for which they did not have enough vaccine to vaccinate as a cautionary example.
“In Rhode Island, we are vaccinating older adults incrementally and thoughtfully. That means that when we tell you you can get vaccinated, you know that there is a real, physical vaccine waiting for you - not just that you fall into a broad category that is eligible to get a vaccine when we eventually have one,” Alexander-Scott said.
“Please know that if we could, we would make sure that everyone got vaccinated immediately. But we’re just not getting enough vaccine right now, so we’re doing the best we can with what we have,” Alexander-Scott added.
Offering that the “tremendous demand” for the vaccine gives her hope, Alexander-Scott said she believes a time will come “when vaccine will be available for every person who wants to get vaccinated in Rhode Island.”
Until then, Alexander-Scott said the Department of Health is asking Rhode Islanders “to be patient, and to take all the other steps we know can help keep you and the people you love safe.”
Alexander-Scott said that means “wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands regularly.”