RI to receive 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses weekly come June; 298 new cases, 3 deaths reported


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Nearly 3,900 people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Rhode Island will receive their first dose in Providence next week.

As scheduled Tuesday morning, the R.I. Department of Health released thousands of new appointments, beginning March 30 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and specifically for the Moderna vaccine.

Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said the state is expecting to receive double their current weekly allotment of vaccine doses come June. All three types of vaccine will increase, which means the state will get roughly 100,000 doses a week, he added.

“We expect some pretty significant increases,” Wendelken said. “We expect to see about a 100% increase in the vaccine coming into Rhode Island by June.”

Right now, people 16 and 17 years old can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, since both Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are only authorized for adults 18 and older. Therefore, only those 18 and older could schedule appointments Tuesday.

Around 1,000 first-dose appointments per day were posted for four days starting next Tuesday. It was the most appointments released by the Health Department at one time since eligibility was expanded to include those over the age of 16 with a qualifying medical condition and people over the age of 60.

The state’s online vaccine portal has previously encountered numerous technical issues, most notably earlier this month when appointments became available to 160,000 newly eligible Rhode Islanders and fewer than 1,600 slots were posted.

Data released Tuesday by the Health Department shows nearly 175,000 people in the state are now fully vaccinated, while a total of 305,000 first doses have been administered to date.

Health officials also reported 298 new COVID-19 cases and a daily positivity rate of 2.9%, with 10,420 tests completed the previous day.

Another three people have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the reported death toll to 2,606.

The Health Department also updated its weekly data on Tuesday. New hospital admissions by week dropped from 142 last week to 113 this week, while the state saw little change in percent positive by week (from 2.0% to 2.1%) and new cases per 100,000 people by week (from 227 to 225).

On Tuesday, the process of booking vaccine appointments appeared to go more smoothly and without error messages.

Wendelken tells 12 News that adjustments were made to allow for more traffic. He also noted that a lot of people have been vaccinated at retail pharmacies and other sites, which has lessened the demand on VaccinateRI.org. A waiting-room feature is still in development.

Appointments at the state-run mass vaccination sites are listed every Tuesday around 9 a.m. and every Friday around 5 p.m., though the state can add appointments as supply becomes available.

Wendelken said the Health Department expects to make even larger numbers of first-dose appointments available next week, since the state is currently administering a lot of second doses to patients. Roughly 35,000 second doses will be administered this week, according to Wendelken.

Vaccine eligibility is supposed to be opened to all Rhode Islanders ages 16 and older by April 19.

“We are still going to open eligibility to age groups in descending order, we are just compressing the timeline,” Wendelken said. “We will have updated time estimates on Thursday.”

Anyone who needs help scheduling a vaccine appointment can call the state’s hotline at (844) 930-1779.

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