This holiday season should be like years past, RIDOH medical director predicts

Community Focus

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The holiday season fast approaching, and R.I. Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald is expecting the celebrations to look like they did prior to the pandemic.

“I’m not planning on a virtual Thanksgiving or Christmas this year,” he said during his monthly interview on 12 News at 4. “I expect this year, all of us will gather [for the holidays].”

That being said, he urged those who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 get the shot as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“If you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet, you really need to ask yourself what you’re waiting for, because quite frankly, the research has been done, it’s been tested and it’s safe,” he said. “There’s almost as much vaccine as there is McDonald’s hamburgers, so now is the time to go and get your vaccine.”

McDonald also encouraged everyone to get their flu shots.

“This year it counts, because last year we got away with the flu,” McDonald said, adding that last year was the first year the state saw no flu-related deaths. “Last year we had the economy shut down everyone wearing masks social distancing … this year, it’s wide open again.”

McDonald said both the flu and COVID vaccines prevent those who do fall ill from experiencing severe symptoms, which typically require a trip to the hospital.

“Our hospitals are more than a little bit busy right now, so if we can keep you out of the hospital, that would be a great thing,” he said. “We don’t want to overcrowd our hospitals, they are already taxed enough right now.”

Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration Thursday to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, and if federal regulators agree, shots could begin to be distributed within a matter of weeks.

McDonald called Pfizer’s request “a big step.”

He hopes the FDA will approve emergency use of the vaccine in kids prior to Halloween, but expressed concerns over whether the shot would be readily available, since the dosage isn’t the same as the FDA-approved vaccine for adults.

“It may not be immediately available,” he said. “I think we’ll have some … but there’s not going to be plenty of vaccine right away, so we’ll have to see how it goes.”

McDonald said parents will likely have to make appointments for their children to get vaccinated until there’s an abundant supply.

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