PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island received its first shipment of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week. But only about 190 doses are being reserved for one of Rhode Island’s hardest-to-reach communities: homebound seniors.
For weeks, Rhode Island health officials said a plan was being developed to vaccinate homebound seniors, and that they were working with towns and cities to identify where homebound seniors live. On Feb. 18, the health department released an online form for people to request an in-home COVID-19 vaccination.
When asked how many homebound people the state will have to reach, Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state health department, said the health department was contacted by about 1,500 people through the online form.
While some home health agencies have already started vaccinating their clients, the state will be focusing on those who are not served by such an agency. Wendelken said Monday that 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.
The form was not available offline. Homebound seniors who were unable to fill out the form can request assistance by calling The Point, the state’s healthy aging helpdesk, 401-462-4444.
“We are starting with the people who have provided their information, but will get to additional people in subsequent waves,” said Wendelken in an email to a Globe reporter.
The first 190 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be given out based on age and geography. Wendelken said the state is trying to accelerate vaccination in the hardest-hit communities. There is no target date for reaching all homebound seniors in Rhode Island.
“We don’t have a specific timeline for homebound Rhode Islanders because a lot depends on vaccine supply and demand over the coming weeks,” said Wendelken. “Obviously though we are trying to get these Rhode Islanders vaccinated very quickly.”
The rest of the state’s Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipment is being distributed to state-run mass vaccination sites, local and community sites, clinics in high density communities, hospitals, and community health centers, among other areas.
Kathleen Hart, a spokeswoman for Lifespan Corp., said the state’s largest hospital system expected about 600 doses this week and would follow the state’s eligibility requirements and directives in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.