Email chain circulates false info on Providence vaccine eligibility

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Colin Kent-Daggett is only 23, but when he received an email claiming he could get vaccinated against COVID-19, he was intrigued.

The Providence resident shared the email with 12 News. The message inaccurately claimed that anyone living in the 02909 zip code could sign up for a shot, regardless of their age.

“Basically [because] of some sort of error, 02909 has too many COVID vaccines to use up before they go bad, and so is opening up [appointments to people] of any age who live in 02909,” the erroneous email said.

It then included a link to the state-run vaccine sign-up portal.

“The website hasn’t been updated so it still says 65 and older, but [people] of any age can currently sign up,” the email falsely claimed.

The R.I. Department of Health warned that the email’s claims were untrue, and that for the most part, only those who are 65 or older are currently eligible for the shot.

Currently, Providence is offering expanded vaccine eligibility in the 02907, 02908 and 02909 zip codes, which have been hit hard by the virus. The vaccine is available to residents ages 50 or older who reside in those communities.

When he opened his inbox, Kent-Daggett didn’t know the email was wrong. He said his roommate had forwarded it to him after someone else had forwarded to her. It’s unclear where the email originated.

Kent-Daggett made an appointment to get his shot, and it wasn’t until he saw a 12 News story regarding vaccine eligibility in Providence that he realized it was too good to be true. He cancelled his appointment.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said state officials can also cancel appointments of those who aren’t eligible.

“We are counting on people’s honesty, cooperation, and truthful attestation,” Wendelken said. He noted that people who sign up for a shot at a state-run site are required to attest to meeting the eligibility requirements; for the most part, that means being 65 or older.

Kent-Daggett said the chain email is now being used in reverse, and people are alerting others that it’s fake.

“Everyone needs the vaccine,” he said. “People are eager to get it, so I think that’s the motivation. So if there’s any inkling that you’re eligible for it and can get it, people are seizing the opportunity.”

12 News has also heard from grocery store employees who are under the false impression that their line of work makes them eligible for the vaccine. But Wendelken said that is not the case, and while certain occupations are allowed to get the shot in Rhode Island, grocery workers aren’t on that list.

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