PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be federally approved, but the Rhode Island Department of Health is already making preparations for how it will be distributed once it’s made available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked each state to submit their vaccine distribution plans by Nov. 1.

With the deadline just two weeks away, Rhode Island Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken shared a 51-page draft of the state’s plan to administer the vaccines.

“Whenever there is a vaccine available we will be ready in Rhode Island,” Wendelken said.

The plan details who will receive the vaccine first, where it will be administered and what to do should someone require a second dose.

Read the full Rhode Island COVID-19 Vaccination Plan (Interim Draft) »

The plan is split up into three main phases of vaccine administration:

  • Phase 1: When there are only limited doses of the vaccine available.
  • Phase 2: When there is a sufficient supply of the vaccine that can likely meet the demand.
  • Phase 3: When there is a sufficient supply of the vaccine and a slowing demand.

Phase 1 will be split up into two parts: Phase 1A, where vaccines would be made available for all high-risk healthcare workers and first responders, and Phase 1B, where the vaccine would be given to people with significant health conditions and older adults in congregate living facilities.

During Phase 2 of Rhode Island’s vaccination plan, which will occur when there is an ample supply of the vaccine, certain populations will be prioritized, including:

  • K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare providers
  • Critical workers in high-risk settings
  • People with moderate health conditions
  • People in homeless shelters or group homes and staff
  • Incarcerated or detained people and facility staff
  • All older adults

Once the demand for the vaccine slows, the state will enter Phase 3, where all young adults, children and “workers in industries important to the functioning of society” would be prioritized.

Wendelken tells 12 News their plan is based upon lessons learned from the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak.

“That was an instance where we had to set up mass vaccination sites all throughout the state,” Wendelken said.

When it comes to administering the vaccine, the plan says both public and private sites will be made available. Public sites, according to the plan, will allow anyone to receive a vaccine without restrictions, while private sites would limit the entry to those on a predefined list of individuals.

“We do envision having community-based sites where people would go and get vaccinated,” Wendelken said. “Usually what we try to do is make it as convenient and accessible as possible.”

“When we do that, we end up having very high vaccination rates and that’s what we have in Rhode Island,” he added. “That’s what we anticipate in this instance as well.”

When it comes to where the first COVID-19 vaccines will be administered state health officials say it depends on the number of doses the state has received, as well as a healthcare provider’s willingness to participate, where they’re located, the population in which they serve and the number of staff members available to administer the vaccines.

If a second dose is required, the plan also details how the state will remind patients to follow up with their healthcare providers to receive the next vaccine.

“Whatever method or combination of methods adopted by Rhode Island, efforts will be made to
ensure that multiple reminders are issued via several redundant routes,” the plan states.

Wendelken said since there are so many unknowns right now, he expects the plan to continue to evolve.

“We don’t know when we will get a vaccine or how many vaccines we are going to get,” he said. “There’s just a lot of different contingencies, so what we’re trying to do is make sure we’re prepared for all scenarios.”