Raimondo announces committee to assess vaccine safety

Updated at 4:16 p.n. on Oct. 7, 2020.

GOV. GINA M. Raimondo said Wednesday that she will be devoting "tens of millions of dollars" of Rhode Island's stimulus money to ensure that the state will have the resources to deploy a future COVID-19 vaccine safely and effectively. / PBN FILE PHOTO / DAVE HANSEN

PROVIDENCE Gov. Gina M. Raimondo said Wednesday that she will be devoting “tens of millions of dollars” of Rhode Island’s stimulus money to ensure that the state will have the resources to deploy a future COVID-19 vaccine safely and effectively.

To start, Raimondo said she is installing a special subcommittee into the established Rhode Island’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, which will be comprised of pediatricians, primary care physicians, ethicists, epidemiologists, school leaders, nonprofit leaders, and others, with the sole focus of planning for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said that this subcommittee has been being planned for weeks, if not months. While an eventual vaccine may be subject to political scrutiny, the director said that this subcommittee will cut through the noise.

“We need to make sure that we have the data and the science to inform people about the vaccine,” said Alexander-Scott. “We understand the skepticism and messaging out there that can pull away from the facts about the data.”

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Members of the subcommittee will be tasked with developing an independent, scientific evaluation process for evaluating the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, and prioritizing the distribution of a vaccine to speed up Rhode Island’s recovery, the governor said.

“I want to be ahead of the game,” said Raimondo, who emphasized that she does not know when a vaccine will be made available. “I’m not waiting for these vaccines to be ready to prepare.”

The COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee members will include:

  • Dr. Tom Bledsoe, Rhode Island Hospital
  • Joan Kwiatkowski, PACE Rhode Island
  • Dr. Eugenio Fernandez, Asthenis Pharmacy
  • Kathy Heren, Rhode Island Long-term Care Ombudsman
  • Dr. Sabina Holland, Hasbro Children’s Hospital
  • Dr. Karen Tashima, Lifespan Corp. Immunology Center
  • Larry Warner, United Way of Rhode Island
  • Reverend Chris Abhulime, the King’s Tabernacle
  • Dr. Wilfredo Perez, Tri-county Community Action Agency
  • Jonathan Brice, Superintendent of Bristol/Warren
  • Dr. Beth Lange, Coastal Medical
  • Dr. John Fulton, Brown University School of Public Health
  • Dr. Jennifer Clarke, Rhode Island Director at the Department of Corrections
  • Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, Care New England Health System
  • Dr. Kerry LaPlante, University of Rhode Island School of Pharmacy
  • Dr. Sapna Chowdhry, Thundermist Health Center

Alexa Gagosz is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Gagosz@PBN.com. You may also follow her on Twitter at @AlexaGagosz.

This story was updated to include members of the subcommittee. 

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