PROVIDENCE — Since vaccination distribution began in mid-December, state health officials have defended their “targeted” approach to Rhode Island’s rollout, which focused on inoculating health care workers and nursing home residents first.
Soon after, some municipalities quietly set up small clinics to vaccinate their most frail and elderly residents. Most clinic locations were not made public, and those who did have access shared appointment links with friends and family, many of whom were ineligible. The health department asked residents to stop sharing the registration links.
And most recently, the state finally unveiled its online portal and hotline for appointments at the state’s two new mass COVID-19 vaccination sites. But younger people who are not yet eligible were able to book appointments.
“We know what to do but we failed to do it,” said state Representative Raymond Hull, a Providence Democrat who chairs the House COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.
State health officials have said that they are still working out the kinks of the broader, more public aspect of the rollout as they ramp up vaccinations. But as the vaccine becomes more widely available, residents are still wondering when exactly they will become eligible, where to best register for a vaccine, and what happens once they get to a vaccine site.
Here are some questions and answers to help you navigate the system.
Who is eligible for a vaccine?
All Rhode Islanders age 16 and older are now eligible for the vaccine. However, 16- and 17-year-old residents may only receive the Pfizer vaccine at this time.
How can I find out when a dose is available to me?
You can pre-register for a vaccine on portal.ri.gov, which is the same website you can use to schedule a COVID-19 test. Those who do not have access to the internet can call 844-930-1779. The system will prioritize residents based on age and if they have any underlying health conditions.
Residents will be able to choose whether to be contacted by phone, text, or email. Residents will be contacted for a vaccine slot in about two weeks, which will be for a set day and location, but there will be some flexibility on time.
Notifications will begin the week of April 4. Pre-registering for a vaccine will not guarantee you an appointment.
I’m eligible for a vaccine now. Where can I register?
To book an appointment at one of the four mass vaccination clinics (Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, the former Citizens Bank call center at 100 Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston, or the most recently opened locations in Middletown at 1400 West Main Road and the West Kingston location at 132 Fairgrounds Road), go to VaccinateRI.org or call the hotline: 844-930-1779.
Some CVS and Walgreens retail pharmacies also have doses. To book an appointment at a CVS, go to their vaccine portal or call 800-746-7287. For Walgreens, register for an account and then go to their vaccine portal or call your local store.
Some cities and towns in Rhode Island are holding separate clinics for their oldest populations. Here’s all that contact info in one place.
Lastly, Lifespan, which runs several hospitals and other medical facilities, has a limited supply of vaccine doses to administer to eligible patients, including at-risk teens. Schedule an appointment here.
I heard that my town is administering vaccines. How can I sign up and how do I know I’m eligible at one of these municipal clinics.
Every town is different. Find out most up-to-date information abut municipal clinics here.
Is any vaccination location accepting walk-ins?
No. You have to book an appointment in all instances.
Is there parking at these mass vaccination clinics?
At the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, there are 2,300 free parking spaces set aside in the North Garage. There also are 23 handicapped spaces with golf carts available for those who have trouble walking.
At the Sockanosset site in Cranston, look for the “Vaccination Here” sign and the military-style vehicle at the entrance. Do not go to the side that says, “Alternative Hospital.” The vaccination website advises residents to get there no more than 15 minutes early or else you may not be able to find parking and will be asked to come back later.
At the mass vaccination sites, will I have to wait outside? What happens when I get inside?
At both locations, appointments are spaced out so that you should be indoors at all times.
Inside the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, there is a reception area where you’ll have to answer basic questions, such as if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. Then you’ll move to the second checkpoint, which is at the ticket counter, where staff will make sure you have an appointment. You’ll then sit at one of the 14 stations and receive your shot. You’ll go to an observation area, which is in a wide hallway by what is usually concession stands, and sit in one of the folding chairs for 15 to 30 minutes to make sure you don’t have any adverse effects. It’s during this time that students from Johnson & Wales University will help you book an appointment for your second shot.
At the Cranston site, the situation is nearly identical. And although the state says it is trying to keep wait times at a minimum, there could be delays. If you’re not able to stand for a period of time, the state recommends bringing a wheelchair or a walker with a seat, if you have one.
At all vaccine locations, you probably won’t be asked for a photo ID or an insurance card, because all of that would have been confirmed when you made your appointment (plus you don’t need either to get a shot). But bring them with you anyway, just in case.
Finally, you’ll get a vaccination confirmation card telling you which vaccine you received, the date, and location of your vaccination.
Will I have to wait outside at a regional clinic set up by my city or town?
All of the regional clinics have their own setups and procedures; you can ask about parking, entrances, waiting, and other concerns when you make your appointment.
What if I don’t show up to get my vaccine? What will happen to that dose?
If there is any leftover vaccine, there is an emergency list of individuals who will be contacted to receive the dose that day. But health officials ask that you please cancel rather than not show up.
What happens if I register with multiple places to get a vaccine?
Schedule an appointment in just one place, health officials say, so that all eligible residents can get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
I am homebound and cannot leave my home. How and where do I get vaccinated?
Rhode Island received its first shipment of 9,100 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine the first week of March. But only about 190 doses are being reserved homebound seniors. The state is finalizing contracts with three vendors who will vaccinate people in their homes starting in mid-March; the vendors will contact homebound individuals directly.
On Feb. 18, the health department shared this form to collect information about homebound seniors for planning purposes. The form does not register anyone for an appointment, nor does it guarantee one. It can be filled out by a health care provider or the caregiver of someone who is homebound. The form is not available offline. Homebound seniors who are unable to fill out the form can request assistance by calling The Point, the state’s healthy aging helpdesk, 401-462-4444.
There are 1,500 homebound seniors that have indicated that they need an in-home vaccination using the form as of early March.
Some providers, such as Care New England’s Integra Community Care Network, are already vaccinating their members who are housebound. If their patients are eligible and on the Integra program, Integra will reach out and schedule the vaccine visit. The VNA of Care New England has also vaccinated VNA patients 75 and older who are unable to walk and/or get out of bed.
How do I sign up for a vaccine if I’m a teacher, work at a school, or am a child care provider?
Governor Daniel J. McKee announced that teachers, school-related staff, and childcare providers will start receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month at one of the existing 30 town or city-ran vaccine clinics. According to the governor’s office, municipal Emergency Management Agency Directors and DHS will reach out to school leaders and licensees for child care centers to share information about how these workers can get vaccinated. People will be vaccinated based on the community where they work, not where they live.
However, Providence will take an alternative approach. For three weeks, a designated clinic for Providence teachers, school staff, and licensed child care workers will open at 335R Prairie Ave. Eligible individuals can call 401-444-8139 to schedule an appointment.
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