PROVIDENCE – Gov. Daniel J. McKee and the R.I. Department of Health are outlining plans to vaccinate 80,000 children between 5 and 11 years old for COVID-19 in Rhode Island, with an expectation that the federal government will approve the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for kids in that age range by mid-November.
However, McKee remains uninterested in mandating COVID-19 vaccines for children to attend class or participate in school sports.
McKee said he will require each city or town in the state to establish a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for children in this age group between November and January, while also working to enlist as many pediatricians as possible to make the shot available in their family health practices.
“Our message to all Rhode Islanders is that our team is prepared and ready,” McKee said. “This opportunity to protect some of our youngest community members against COVID-19 is right around the corner. Rhode Island will be ready, and I hope you and your family will be ready as well.”
McKee outlined these plans during his now bi-weekly COVID-19 update, held on Thursday at Providence Children’s Museum, which he said will soon host a vaccine clinic for younger children.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health, said it will take several weeks for Rhode Island to receive all the vaccine it needs to vaccinate 80,000 children, after it is mass produced with a child-sized dosage and formulation, needs to be ordered and shipped to states once it received emergency authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration.
“Initially, states are only going to get limited weekly shipments,” Alexander-Scott said. “It will take time. By taking time, I simply mean it will take a few weeks for us to get all the doses for this population and distribute it effectively.”
Alexander-Scott said the Department of Health would be hosting virtual events to address the concerns and questions that local parents may have about getting their young children vaccinated for COVID-19.
McKee said he’s not interested in vaccine mandates for children to attend school or play in interscholastic sports. Implementing such a mandate for health care workers was a special situation, McKee said.
But the governor said he would leave it up to the individual schools and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.
McKee said the state’s 89% of eligible people who have gotten vaccinated for COVID-19, so close to his previously stated 90% goal, gives him confidence to go forward without such mandates in place.
“We know Rhode Islanders are responding in a responsible way to get vaccinated,” McKee said.
Also during the bi-weekly update, McKee said the pandemic situation was improving so much that he ordered the decommissioning of the Sockanosset Road field hospital in Cranston that was established treat patients if traditional hospitals were filled beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients.
“Due to high vaccination rates, declining hospitalizations and the declining impact of the delta variant, the facility is no longer considered necessary for us,” McKee said. “For us to be decommissioning at this point in time sends a very strong signal that the people of the state of Rhode Island have responded in a real strong way to keep us healthy, by getting vaccinated and following other protocols that have been in place.”
McKee said Rhode Island now has the second lowest COVID test positivity rate among any state in the country over the last seven days, and one of the lowest hospitalization rates as well. With 69.6% of the Ocean State now fully vaccinated, Rhode Island is the third ranked state in the nation for COVID-19 inoculation per capita.
However, McKee said he wants to see those numbers go up, especially for the group of children 12 years or older who are currently vaccinated. McKee said 68% of currently eligible children have received a vaccination.
“We still have more work to do,” McKee said.
Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.
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