PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As Rhode Island celebrates yet another vaccine milestone, the R.I. Department of Health is now focusing its efforts on the state’s “cold spots.”
Cold spots, according to R.I. Department of Health’s Dr. Philip Chan, are areas of the state that have lower vaccination rates.
Recently released data reveals the two communities with the lowest vaccination rates in Rhode Island are currently Woonsocket and Tiverton. The communities with the highest vaccination rates are Barrington, East Greenwich, Jamestown and Block Island.
Chan believes one of the main reasons for the disparity is vaccine hesitancy.
“I think what we are seeing is natural hesitation to anything that is new,” he explained. “Hopefully, as these vaccines get full approval – knock on wood – which will happen this month, people will be reassured about the safety profile of these vaccines.”
He also said the spread of misinformation about the vaccines is likely playing a role.
“We are hoping that people look at the data, the signs, and listen to the experts on reasons,” Chan said. “We are hoping that people stay away from things like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, which can be a source of misinformation.”
In a statement, R.I. Department of Health’s Annemarie Beardsworth tells 12 News the agency is working to reach communities that have lower coverage rates.
“We continue to prioritize our efforts to reach those people who are eligible and who have not yet been vaccinated through a variety of methods,” she said. “For some people, convenience and familiar location can determine whether or not they get vaccinated. So, we are working hand-in-hand with our local partners to meet unvaccinated Rhode Islanders where they are and get shots in arms.”
Tiverton Fire Chief Bruce Reimels, who’s also a spokesperson for the town, says he believes the vaccination rates are actually higher than what the data shows.
“There are a lot of Tiverton residents that received their vaccination shots in Massachusetts,” Reimels said. “When RIDOH ran the numbers with the information from Mass., Tiverton’s numbers increased by 15%. At that point in time, which was May 25, there were 7,034 Tiverton residents vaccinated in R.I. and 2,298 vaccinated in Mass.”
12 News also reached out to Woonsocket officials about the city’s data but has yet to hear back.