PROVIDENCE, RI — The first coronavirus vaccines could arrive in Rhode Island as soon as the end of this week, one of the state’s top doctors said Wednesday afternoon. The Rhode Island Department of Health outlined the state’s plan for vaccine distribution, including who will get the vaccines, and when.
“[The vaccine marks] the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Dr. Philip Chan, a consultant medical director with the Department of Health. “But there’s still a long way to go.”
Both Pfizer and Moderna are poised to receive emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their coronavirus vaccines. If the approval is given, Rhode Island’s vaccine distribution plan will immediately go into motion, the department explained. Although the vaccines are quite new, the department has been preparing for months to ensure effective distribution and safety.
Dr. Alysia Mihalakos, the department’s chief Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the state’s COVID-19 vaccine subcommittee will meet within 24 hours of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s guidance, which is expected after two emergency meetings on Friday and Sunday.
“[Vaccines could arrive in Rhode Island] as early as this weekend or the first days of next week,” she said.
As Gov. Gina Raimondo previously outlined, vaccines will be distributed in phases, going to those most at-risk first. Once the first doses arrive, the department projected around 32,000 doses per week, which will include approximately 16,000 of each type, separated into first and second doses. In the case of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the vaccine must be administered in two doses, about three to four weeks apart.
Mihalakos estimated than about 150,000 people will be eligible to receive the vaccine in the first group, which includes those most at risk. It’s also important to remember, she said, that the state will not be the ones to directly administer the vaccine. Instead, the Department of Health will distribute the vaccines, which will then be administered by hospitals, employers, pharmacies and other partners.
The vaccine distribution groups are outlined below.
- High-risk health care workers (hospital staff, long-term congregate care facility staff)
- First responders
- Residents of long-term congregate care facilities
- People with two or more preexisting conditions that increase the chances of mortality
- Older adults in congreghate or crowded settings
- K-12 teachers and school staff
- Child care workers
- People with “moderate” comorbid conditons
- People in homeless shelters and group homes, and staff
- Incarcerated people, detained people and staff
- All older adults
- Young adults
- Workers in critical industries, such as grocery stores
- Everyone who was not eligible in previous phases
The department reminded Rhode Islanders that phases are not set, and the timeline will shift depending on vaccine availability. At this time, the vaccines have not been tested for safety in children, and trials are underway by both companies.