RI, Mass. expand vaccine eligibility; J&J shipments on track this week


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts expanded their lists of individuals eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

As of April 5, adults 50 years of age and older are now eligible in Rhode Island, while those 55 and older are now eligible in Massachusetts.

Additionally, individuals 16 and older with at least one of the medical conditions defined by Massachusetts guidance will also be eligible to receive the vaccine starting Monday. Previously, state guidance indicated individuals needed two or more conditions to be eligible.

The list now also includes individuals who are overweight or obese, plus those with dementia, type 1 diabetes, HIV, and those suffering from substance abuse.

According to Massachusetts vaccine eligibility guidance, copies of medical records or a doctor’s note is not needed to confirm eligibility.

By April 12, Rhode Islanders 40 years and older will become eligible to receive a vaccine.

Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island plan to open up vaccines to everyone ages 16 and older by April 19.

Individuals in both states can sign up Monday through retail pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens. Tuesday, Rhode Island will open vaccine appointments through the state-run sites at around 9 am on VaccinateRI.org, with the next opportunity on Friday at around 5 pm.

Additionally this week, shipments of both state’s incoming supply of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are not expected to be impacted, despite a factory error that resulted in millions of doses of the single-dose shot having to be thrown out. However, future allocations are up in the air.

According to R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken, Rhode Island is still getting 16,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, but roughly 6,000 doses the following week. Wendelken says the Health Department will know more about allocations beyond that sometime Tuesday.

Vaccines may also expand further in the coming days. Wendelken says the state is working on plans to boost vaccination rates in the second tier of ZIP codes harder hit by COVID-19. Eligibility was previously lowered in first tier communities.

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