There was a lot of news this week about the federal government urging states to vaccinate people who are 65 years of age and older. We want to get vaccine to people older than 65 too. The limiting factor is not federal rules, or our approach in Rhode Island. The limiting factor is the amount of vaccine we are getting. We are getting 14,000 first doses of vaccine a week. There are close to 190,000 people in Rhode Island who are 65 years of age and older. It would not be honest or fair of us to say that all Rhode Islanders older than 65 can get vaccinated tomorrow, because we just don’t have the vaccine.
We've seen the confusion and frustration that has resulted in states that have opened eligibility to groups that they did not have enough vaccine for. In Rhode Island, we are vaccinating older adults incrementally and thoughtfully. That means that when we tell you you can get vaccinated, you know that there is a real, physical vaccine waiting for you - not just that you fall into a broad category that is eligible to get a vaccine when we eventually have one. Please know that if we could, we would make sure that everyone got vaccinated immediately. But we’re just not getting enough vaccine right now, so we’re doing the best we can with what we have.
I know that there is tremendous demand for vaccine, and I understand why. Frankly, this high demand gives me hope. This has been an enormously trying 10 months for so many Rhode Islanders. There will come a time when vaccine will be available for every person who wants to get vaccinated in Rhode Island. Until that time comes, we’re asking for you to be patient, and to take all the other steps we know can help keep you and the people you love safe. That means wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands regularly.
Nicole-Alexander Scott, MD, MPH
Director, Rhode Island Department of Health