Health Director: No vaccine doses are ‘sitting on a shelf’ in RI

12 on 12: Vaccine 101

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said the state is distributing vaccine doses almost at the same pace they are receiving them.

“There is no vaccine sitting on a shelf anywhere here in our state,” she said.

The biggest challenge Rhode Island is facing, as well as many other states, is the lack of supply from the federal government, according to Alexander-Scott.

But R.I. Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said they are expecting the vaccine rollout to greatly improve once President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated next week.

“Vaccine production I anticipate will be getting little bit better,” McDonald said. “I think you are going to see more partnership with the companies that make it, and just helping us get more vaccine sooner, so I’m optimistic things will get better in the next few weeks.”

The state is trying to vaccinate those who are part of Phase 1 by April, which includes approximately 200,000 people. Among the groups being prioritized are hospital workers, nursing home residents and residents who are ages 75 and older.

As of Thursday, the state reports that nearly 60% of the roughly 80,000 doses Rhode Island has received have already been administered.

“Because vaccine can’t be administered the exact day it arrives in Rhode Island, there will always be a gap between how much vaccine has arrived in Rhode Island and how much vaccine has been administered,” Alexander-Scott said.

Alexander-Scott said that gap is caused by the time it takes the state to redistribute the vaccines and then schedules patients based on that amount.

Currently, the state is vaccinating approximately 2,000 people per day, which is roughly matching the 14,000 doses it’s receiving each week.

“But everyone can be confident that the system to get the distribution going means we equal what has come into the state is what has been distributed,” Alexander-Scott said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the amount of vaccines distributed in Rhode Island is slightly higher than the state’s numbers.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health, said that is because the CDC counts what’s in transit and the state counts only what has arrived.

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