Elderly couple calls RI’s slow vaccine rollout ‘a life and death matter’


WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — Marilyn and Stephen Kaplan, both in their 80s, haven’t seen their grandchildren in almost a year.

The both say they’re frustrated that they aren’t eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine yet due to their ages and health conditions.

“[We’re] placed pretty far down,” Stephen said. “As far down as they could go and get away with it.”

The Kaplan’s watched the state’s coronavirus briefing Wednesday to hear when they would be eligible to get immunized, only to learn that they’ll have to wait until at least February.

“We are doing the best that we can with what supply we have,” R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said. “As we get it, we are distributing it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently encouraged states to begin vaccinating everyone ages 65 and older, but Alexander-Scott said right now, it’s just not possible in Rhode Island.

“It is challenging to move any faster than what we are doing right now, but we want everyone to know how we are handling this,” she said.

Alexander-Scott outlined how the state is prioritizing who gets the vaccine, saying those decisions are being driven by the data and science, with a focus on “minimizing hospitalization risk and saving lives.”

But the Kaplan’s don’t buy it.

“I think of it as a life and death matter,” Stephen said.

The state is currently receiving roughly 14,000 doses a week and around 2,000 are being administered per day, according to Alexander-Scott.

She said the state should begin offering the vaccine to Rhode Islanders ages 75 and older by early February, but that could all change depending on how many doses they receive from the federal government.

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