PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island celebrated becoming the fifth state to reach 70% of adults fully vaccinated on Thursday, although health officials warn there’s still a ways to go in the fight against COVID-19.
On May 4, President Joe Biden set a goal of getting 70% of US adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day. Rhode Island not only surpassed his goal, but also achieved the same milestone for full vaccinations, joining Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine in doing so.
“It’s the culmination of tremendous amount of work of the state, our communities, our federal partners,” said Tom McCarthy, executive director of the Rhode Island COVID-19 Response Team. “It’s something we should all be proud of and celebrate.”
Still, McCarthy said the state’s true goal — a marker that would more closely resemble “herd immunity” — is to vaccinate 70% of Rhode Island’s total population. Currently, less than 60% of all Rhode Islanders, including people ages 17 and younger, have been fully vaccinated.
“For herd immunity, what that does is reduces the prevalence in the community, so reduces some risk,” McCarthy explained.
He said current data shows Rhode Island will not hit that milestone until October, and a Target 12 analysis based on the state’s most recent seven-day average of new people becoming fully vaccinated shows the state isn’t likely to reach that goal until the end of November.
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McCarthy said another significant benchmark is that the state is on track within the next week to have a rolling average of fewer than 10 new COVID-19 cases every day. That represents the lowest community transmission since the beginning of the pandemic.
The vaccines also appear to be protecting against more severe cases of the disease. Since vaccinations started in December, 4,900 unvaccinated people have been hospitalized compared to just 96 vaccinated people, according to the R.I. Department of Health.
And with the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreading quickly, McCarthy urged unvaccinated Rhode Islanders to get inoculated as soon as possible to try and fend off any significant spread locally.
Asked Thursday if the state is looking to make vaccinations mandatory for eligible K-12 students this fall, McCarthy said he “wouldn’t anticipate” that to be the case, especially because the vaccines have only received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But if the vaccines get full approval in the future, McCarthy said Rhode Island would likely look into making the vaccines mandatory for eligible students.
Tolly Taylor (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook