PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine has expanded to include Rhode Islanders ages 65 and older, but several residents tell 12 News they ran into trouble while attempting to schedule an appointment early Monday morning.
Not only was there just a handful of open slots listed for Monday and Tuesday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center – one of the state-run mass vaccination sites – but the page also lacked the option to actually book an appointment.
Just after 9 a.m. Monday, the website reflected the new age criteria with buttons allowing people to sign up and hundreds of appointments were added.
However, some 12 News viewers said the website was still not entirely functional once the buttons were first added, and the page to book the appointment would disappear after filling in eligibility criteria and personal information.
The Department of Health said 10,000 new appointments would be added Monday, but by noon, the website listed just a handful again.
It was a frustrating morning for residents like Barbara Dunder, 70, of Cranston, who on Monday became eligible with other residents ages 65 and older.
She said she’s eager to get vaccinated because of her underlying conditions.
“I’ve been cancer-free for a year, however, all of my numbers via the blood testing are still low, they’re not great, so I’m still immunocompromised,” Dunder said. “I also have [atrial fibrillation], which I developed from the chemotherapy.”
Dunder said she logged on to the website just after midnight to find the same information from the day prior, and no way to book an appointment. When she tried again at 7 a.m., she had the same result.
“It’s extraordinarily frustrating,” she said.
Dunder also tried took book through CVS, but discovered all available locations were fully booked in Rhode Island.
She said it’s been especially frustrating amid reports of people younger than 75 signing up for vaccine appointments ahead of their turn in line last week.
“I really think that they need to control that, and I also think that they need to lobby and get more vaccines here so that we can vaccinate more people,” Dunder said.
Soon after her interview with 12 News, Dunder said she was able to book an appointment at the mass vaccination site in Cranston.
The vaccine appointment website previously had conflicting information on who was eligible for appointments early Monday, listing that while “adults/seniors” were in the groups served at each clinic, additional information said the clinic was for adults ages 75 and older that live, work or go to school in Rhode Island.
The Department of Health said people who cannot register online can get help by calling the automated line at (844) 930-1779.
An estimated 9,900 Rhode Islanders were vaccinated at the two-state run sites over their first three days of operation, according to the Department of Health. The Health Department said Rhode Island’s vaccine administration rate has increased by 89% over the last six weeks.
In December, an average of 1,300 doses were administered per day, rising to 2,700 doses per day in January and climbing to 5,100 doses per day in February. More than 203,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date in Rhode Island.
There is no insurance requirement to get vaccinated, and no one has to pay to get vaccinated. For general information about COVID-19 vaccination in Rhode Island, visit C19vaccineRI.org.
Also starting Monday, adults ages 65 and older became eligible to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments at select CVS and Walgreens locations in Rhode Island.
Early Monday morning, the CVS website stated appointments at all of its locations offering the vaccine were fully booked.
Walgreens also showed no availability for “the next two days” early Monday. Appointments later started to appear, but the eligibility criteria still listed adults ages 75 and older, not 65 and older.
The Department of Health reiterated that appointments may not be immediately available for all eligible Rhode Islanders.
For example, many cities and towns are continuing to vaccinate their oldest residents first, and supply of vaccine remains limited at all sites. Instructions on how to register at all three types of locations are available online.