PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island leaders are doubling down on efforts to get students vaccinated against COVID-19 and get booster doses into more people’s arms.

Gov. Dan McKee announced Wednesday morning that he is working with R.I. Department of Health Interim Director Dr. Jim McDonald to move the state from a pandemic to an endemic.

“COVID-19 has transitioned into a preventable, treatable disease and that is good news for us,” McKee noted.

An endemic means the virus won’t disappear altogether, but rather it becomes something with which to co-exist and take steps to avoid serious illness.

McKee says he and McDonald will work on a strategy for the state, but notes a huge part of getting to that next phase relies on vaccinations.

“This is a key component of managing our way through the next stages of this health crisis. That means getting your primary series and getting your booster,” McKee said.

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The latest data from the Health Department shows that while 95% of the state’s population is at least partially vaccinated, only about 38% of Rhode Islanders have gotten their booster shot.

According to the governor, the state is running advertisements on the radio and in newspapers and will have canvassers go into communities with low vaccination rates to educate people about the vaccine.

The state is also ramping up efforts to get students vaccinated by holding more clinics in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket, where vaccination rates are lower than 20%, according to McKee.

Wednesday’s briefing was held at Lillian Feinstein Elementary School, which has a 16% vaccination rate among students. A clinic will be held there on Sunday to get more students vaccinated, but it will also be open to the public.

McDonald said school nurses and teachers play an important role in getting kids and their parents to trust that the vaccine is safe and effective.

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He reassured parents who are nervous about the long-term effects that if there was a problem with the vaccine, it would’ve been discovered within a few months.

“This is really the most well-studied vaccine in the history of our planet,” McDonald said. “It’s the most heavily monitored vaccine in the history of our planet. We’re talking about billions and billions of doses of vaccine have been given at this point.”

“I assure parents this is safe and effective for your child,” he added. “I think some parents are saying, ‘I just don’t know.’ I think it’s important to remember, not making a decision is making a decision.”

McDonald said those who have completed the primary vaccine series are six times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Those who have received the booster dose are 55 times less likely to get hospitalized compared to someone who hasn’t gotten the shot.

“If you can protect the kid, you can protect the family,” he said.

R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green is asking all schools with less than a 20% vaccination rate to hold clinics to get students immunized.

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Providence Public Schools will be holding vaccination clinics around the district for students, and they can sign up online.

According to Infante-Green, Providence has a 35% vaccination rate among students, compared to communities like East Greenwich which has a 79% vaccination rate.

“It’s treatable and we have the tools at our disposal,” Infante-Green said about the vaccine.

Acting Providence Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez also said there will also be an upcoming “high school vax week.”

Overall, McKee said that since early January, cases are down by more than 95% and hospitalizations are down 62%.

New cases over the last seven days are down 67% from two weeks ago and the seven-day average positivity rate is down 47% from two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, the Health Department reported 169 new cases and a 2.1% daily positivity rate. There were no additional deaths, they said, while hospitalizations decreased to 142, with 16 patients in the ICU and 11 on ventilators.