PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Governors in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts announced how they’re preparing for a COVID-19 vaccine with the formation of special groups tasked with communication, distribution, and equity issues.
Both groups will not only have medical professionals and public health experts, but will also include a combination of faith, non-profit, school leaders, and many more.
On Wednesday, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she was convening a special subcommittee of the State’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, with the sole focus of planning for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re planning now so we are fully prepared. I’m not waiting for these vaccines to be ready,” Raimondo said.
The group will develop an independent process to evaluate each possible vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and it will also advise the state on prioritizing the distribution of the vaccine.
Issuing a reminder to Rhode Islanders, the governor noted a vaccine will not be “a silver bullet” out of the pandemic.
“First we have to get it, then we have to distribute it. Many of these vaccines that are in trials require two shots,” Raimondo said. “There has to be enough available to vaccinate everyone in the state of Rhode Island, and it does take some time to build up immunity on our population.”
The governor also said that even when the vaccine is released, Rhode Islanders will still have to take precautions.
“You still have to wear your masks,” Raimondo said. “We’re still going to have to be thoughtful and careful about our social gathering sizes until we’ve had time to fully vaccinate and develop broad immunity in Rhode Island’s population.”
Raimondo said she intends to devote tens of millions of dollars in both CARES Act and FEMA funds to distribute the vaccine in Rhode Island.
Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office also announced a similar vaccine group for Massachusetts.
According to a news release from Baker’s office, the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group will “advance its efforts to prepare to distribute a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.”
The advisory group is made up of medical professionals, public health experts, elected officials, community leaders, and infectious disease specialists, and will advise the Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the COVID-19 Command Center.
The Commonwealth has actively been working on preparedness and planning for a COVID-19 vaccine since early August, according to a news release from Baker’s office.
More than 3,000 provider sites already report data to the state’s Immunization Information System, which serves as the state’s vaccine registry, ordering, and inventory system. DPH is adding 1,000 additional clinical sites “to further enhance the distribution and tracking of a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Member of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group will work closely with DPH Medical Director Dr. Larry Madoff and DPH Assistant Commissioner Kevin Cranston.
Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group:
- Dr. Paul Biddinger, Chair – Mass General Brigham
- Dr. Barry Bloom – Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Dr. Vincent Chiang – Boston Children’s Hospital
- Michael Curry, Esq. – Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers
- Dr. Robert Finberg – University of Massachusetts Medical School
- State Senator Cindy Friedman – Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing
- Dr. Marc Lipsitch – Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- State Representative Ronald Mariano – House Majority Leader
- Wanda McClain – Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Dr. Asif Merchant – Mass Medical Society
- Mayor Daniel Rivera – City of Lawrence
- Dr. John Rocchio – CVS Health
- Dr. David Twitchell – Boston Medical Center
- Rev. Liz Walker – Roxbury Presbyterian Church
- Phoebe Walker – Franklin Regional Council of Governments
- Dr. Simone Wildes – South Shore Hospital
- Dr. Sharon Wright – Beth Israel Lahey Health
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