PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Earlier this week, Brown University’s Dr. Ashish Jha estimated that Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine could be given Emergency Use Authorization for kids ages 12 and older next month, and distribution could begin in June.
In his weekly interview on 12 News Now at 4, R.I. Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald called that timeline “achievable.”
“I actually hope we’re doing it before Memorial Day,” he said.
Watch the full interview in the video above.
When asked what he would say to parents who are worried about their children receiving the vaccine, McDonald encouraged them to talk to their child’s pediatrician.
“As a pediatrician myself, what I am telling my patients is, ‘Kids, I want you to go get the vaccine,'” McDonald said. “‘One, I want to protect your health. Two, I want to protect the people around you. Three, we’re all better off on the planet if we stop the spread of this disease.'”
“The best way to stop this pandemic locally and globally is to get everybody vaccinated,” he continued.
Several high schools across the state are also gearing up to vaccinate eligible students in the coming weeks, including 16- and 17-year-olds who can self-consent to the shot.
When it comes to parents who are worried about that self-consent, McDonald said it all revolves around trust and respect.
“It’s really important to have a good relationship with your child,” McDonald said. “This is a great time to talk to your kids about what your values are and what you’d like to see.”
McDonald said, as any parent of a teenager knows, “they want autonomy, they want to make their own decisions.”
“As a parent though, we don’t want them to get hurt,” he said. “So it’s important to guide them and this is the right time to say, ‘Look, let’s talk about this stuff.'”
As of Thursday, roughly 66% of Rhode Islanders have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the state hopes to reach 70% for herd immunity.
When asked whether vaccinating the final 4% will take longer than expected, McDonald said he doesn’t think so.
“We’re still seeing a demand,” McDonald said. “I think we are really going in a positive direction, we’re still doing about 10,000 doses a day right now.”
“The demand is still pretty robust because I think people get it,” he continued. “One important thing to remember though, is vaccine urgency. I really want all of Rhode Island vaccinated by Memorial Day.”
McDonald said he knows that is a bold goal, but he has faith in Rhode Islanders, especially since he expects the state to have administered 1 million doses the week after Mother’s Day.
“Mom wants you to get vaccinated too, so let’s work on that,” he said.
When it comes to testing, McDonald said he expects large testing sites to be around for awhile longer.
“We still need it,” he said, adding that it’s still a huge part of the state’s COVID surveillance. “We want to make you feel welcome in Rhode Island whether you live her or you’re coming to visit. We want to keep our testing rolling along.”