Providence to start prioritizing vaccines for harder-hit neighborhoods

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The city of Providence will expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older a few days ahead of the statewide expansion, but only to residents of the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

The two vaccine clinics scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the John Hope Settlement House were originally only for city residents 75 years or older. But with 400 appointments still unfilled as of Wednesday, the city got clearance from the Department of Health to allow some residents 65 and older to sign up, according to spokesperson Ben Smith.

The appointments are being expanded to city residents who are 65 and older and live in the 02907, 02908 and 02909 zip codes. (All residents 75 and older remain eligible.)

“Our goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible and to focus on the communities that have been hit the hardest,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a statement Wednesday night. “I thank the Department of Health for approving our request as it allows us to meet our shared goal of vaccinating our most vulnerable residents efficiently and expeditiously.”

Those three zip codes — which include the neighborhoods of Olneyville, Silver Lake, Mount Pleasant, Manton and Elmwood among others — have had the highest rate of infection in Providence. As of earlier this week, the zip code of 02906 on the East Side — which has had the lowest rate of infection in the city — had the most residents vaccinated per capita thus far.

The state is poised to expand eligibility to all residents 65 and older next week. But the R.I. Department of Health has said that as they make their way down the age groups, they will also seek to prioritize high density communities such as Central Falls, Providence and Pawtucket.

Central Falls — which has had the highest rate of infection in Rhode Island — expanded eligibility to all adult residents weeks ago.

“We’re going to continue to work with the zip codes in those areas that have the highest rates to expand that high-density community strategy and replicate what has worked well in Central Falls,” R.I. health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said during a news conference Wednesday.

Alexander-Scott said housing developments may also be targeted as part of the same strategy.

Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time Providence has directed doses to particular neighborhoods. It’s unclear exactly how much residents of the three zip codes will continue to be prioritized in the coming weeks.

Providence is currently getting roughly 1,200 doses of Moderna vaccine per week to administer at the local clinics as part of the municipal allocation of vaccine being sent to cities and towns.

Separately, two state-run vaccine clinics are opening Thursday, which will be open to people 75 and older. All Rhode Islanders 65 and older will be able to sign up for those clinics starting on Monday.

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