Vaccine eligibility opens to everyone 16+; RI reports 758 new cases since Friday, 4 deaths

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — All residents of Rhode Island and Massachusetts who are 16 years of age and older are now able to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

That covers roughly 1.7 million people in Massachusetts, while about 258,000 Rhode Islanders are newly eligible.

Overnight, Rhode Island updated its eligibility on VaccinateRI.org, the site used to book appointments at state-run sites and participating independent pharmacies.

The state typically releases new appointments on Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings, but R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken tells 12 News that 15,000 were posted on Monday to accommodate the sudden increase in demand.

Another 9,000 appointments will be released at 9 a.m. Tuesday. They can be booked online or by calling (844) 930-1779.

Retail pharmacies have also updated their eligibility criteria. Walgreens changed its eligibility to 16+ early Sunday afternoon, while CVS and Walmart did so Monday morning.

Both Care New England and Lifespan also offer clinics with limited availability.

Data released Monday by the Health Department shows more than 330,000 Rhode Islanders are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 770,000 total doses have been administered to date.

The state’s reported death toll climbed to 2,651, an increase of four since data was last released on Friday.

Another 758 people in Rhode Island have also tested positive since then, while health officials added 59 new cases to prior-day totals, the data shows.

Currently, 136 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the state, with 27 in intensive care and 21 on ventilators.

As of right now, only Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccines are being administered. People 16 and 17 years old are only eligible to receive Pfizer’s vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine remains on pause as an advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awaits more evidence to see if the vaccine is associated with a rare blood clot.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices could vote or decide on updated recommendations for J&J when it meets on Friday. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will also review the findings.

“After the FDA and the CDC finish their review, we will take a careful look at their findings, along with members of the COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee,” Wendelken said. “It’s a little premature to put a timeline on that, but we will be sure to keep the public updated on any changes in Rhode Island.”

Last week, the Health Department said of everyone vaccinated so far in Rhode Island, 99.9% have not contracted COVID-19, which Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott noted is greater than the efficacy reported in all three vaccines’ clinical trials.

“That should be an encouragement for every eligible Rhode Islander who has not been vaccinated yet to go out and make an appointment to get their shot,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said. “Come Monday, April 19, there will be no excuses for everyone who is eligible.”

Beginning Monday, there will also be more options for how to get to an appointment in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is now offering free rides to anyone going to vaccination appointments.

To request a ride, call (401) 781-9400 or email CustomerService@RIPTA.com. Riders are required to wear face masks on the bus.

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