Some could wait nearly a year for access to COVID vaccine: RIDOH medical director


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald tells 12 News that once a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not everyone will be able to get it right away.

Several vaccines are moving into their late trial stages and McDonald said certain groups will be prioritized for the first doses of the vaccine.

“When a vaccine does get approved, it will be in short supply,” he said, noting that it is likely to go to groups deemed “high risk” first.

He said people who don’t fall into prioritized populations might not be able to receive the vaccine until next summer.

McDonald also provided a possible explanation as to why more distance learners in Rhode Island are testing positive for COVID-19 than those who have returned to school in person.

“There’s disease spreading in the community, so that’s why it’s happening,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll always stay this way, but since there’s so many kids doing virtual learning you’re going to see some of this for a while.”

He’s not particularly surprised or concerned by the findings and said the good news so far is that there’s no evidence of that person-to-person spread.

“I think that’s because we’re doing rapid case finding and because we’re isolating people and quarantining their contacts,” he said.

Responding to CDC Director Robert Redfield’s comments Wednesday that roughly 90 percent of the U.S. has yet to be infected by the virus, McDonald said he believes less than 10-percent of Rhode Islanders have had COVID. He said there’s no clear answer yet as to whether people who recover from COVID-19 have long-term immunity.

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