R.I. expands vaccinations to people 65 and older, although others report receiving shots

Updated at 11:55 a.m.

RHODE ISLAND began offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments to residents and workers aged 65 or older on Monday. / COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE VIA AP

PROVIDENCE Rhode Island formally opened vaccinations for COVID-19 to all residents and workers aged 65 and older on Monday, and released several thousand new appointment slots at the two state-run locations.

The state-run sites, at Sockanosett Cross Road in Cranston and at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, had several hundred appointments available this week as of 10 a.m. Monday.

People eligible include anyone who is 65 or older who lives or works in Rhode Island, or who attends school here, as well as people who previously were eligible under Phase I vaccination.

The state-run registration site, at www.VaccinateRI.org, indicates only people age 65 or older, and those in the prior groups authorized to receive vaccinations, will be eligible. But in social media posts, as well as individual reports to Providence Business News, people have received vaccinations who do not fit into those groups because the state website did not include an age filter when launched.

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State health officials initially said people under age 75 would not receive their first shots if they went to the two state-run sites this weekend, but that does not appear to have been enforced.

General caregivers, who also have not received prioritization in Rhode Island, also have reported receiving vaccinations. Mary Bogan, who emailed PBN after posting on Next Door, said she received a vaccination as a caregiver after registering at a Providence site.

The state has allowed caregivers enrolled in state programs to receive the shots as part of its Phase I, but some people escorting elderly relatives have said they too were allowed to receive a first dose.

When Massachusetts expanded its eligibility to include caregivers escorting elderly residents to the vaccine sites in the Bay State, R.I. Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott was asked in a news briefing if Rhode Island would do the same. She said it would not at this time.

On Monday, state heath department spokesman Joseph Wendelken said that people can only receive a vaccination in the Ocean State if they are eligible. “You have to be in one of the eligible groups,” he said.

In other news, the state announced that the field hospitals will be phased out over the next several weeks, because hospitalizations have decreased sharply over the past month. The alternate sites were in use for the past several months, and used by people with less-intensive care needs. They had been set up to provide care for people outside the traditional hospitals, and were run by Care New England and Lifespan.

The last day for patient care at the Rhode Island Convention Center site will be Feb. 26, according to the state.

The last day for the site at Sockonosett Cross Road will be in two or three weeks, according to Wendelken. Once the patients are all discharged, the sites will be cleaned and sanitized. The equipment will remain on-site in case a surge in hospitalizations is seen again.

Since the field hospitals were established, they treated 633 patients total.

(SUBS paragraph 6 to identify Mary Bogan; minor edits throughout.)

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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