Rhode Island plans on expanding its coronavirus vaccine program as soon as next week to residents age 75 and older who have not already received a shot, and then to residents 65 and older by mid-February, state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Thursday.
The state’s plan is based on age, underlying health conditions and geography.
“The approach we are taking is 100% grounded in the science and the data on how to best protect people who are most at risk, keeping them out of the hospital and keeping them alive,” she said.
Anyone age 16 to 65 with one of five underlying health conditions — diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, or a compromised immune system — should be able to get a vaccine by mid-March. People with those conditions typically have higher hospitalization and fatality rates from COVID-19, she said.
The state will also take geography into account, giving residents of hard-hit communities such as Central Falls and Pawtucket better access to the vaccine.
The state’s plan depends on vaccine availability and assumes that the state’s vaccine supply will increase over time, she said.
So far the state has concentrated its vaccination efforts on health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and first responders. About 64,500 first doses and almost 22,000 second doses have been administered so far, according to state Health Department statistics released Thursday.
Teachers have been clamoring to be moved higher on the vaccination priority list, and Alexander-Scott pointed out that about 58% of the state’s teachers will get vaccinated early under the state’s plan.
“We all realize how important it is to get teachers and all Rhode Islanders vaccinated as quickly as possible,” she said.
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