PROVIDENCE — Starting Tuesday, Rhode Islanders over the age of 16 who live in one of the eight hardest-hit ZIP codes will be able to register for vaccine appointments at state-run mass vaccination sites and participating pharmacies.
The additional appointments are intended for residents of communities most affected by COVID-19, including parts of Providence, Cranston, and North Providence, as well as all of Pawtucket and Central Falls. The ZIP codes are 02860, 02861, 02863, 02904, 02905, 02907, 02908, and 02909.
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, residents will be able to register online at vaccinateRI.org or by calling the state hotline at 844-930-1779. The approximately 5,500 appointments that will open Tuesday will be for the state-run sites at Sockanosset Cross Road, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, and the vaccination site in Middletown.
The hospitalization rates in Rhode Island’s hardest-hit communities is approximately 3.5 times higher than the rest of the state, according to the state health department.
Starting at age 50 and older, residents of these communities have higher hospitalization rates than residents who are 70 and older statewide. Within these eight specific ZIP codes, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Rhode Islanders of color.
Joseph Wendelken, the spokesman for the state health department, said the age-adjusted hospitalization rate among Hispanic or Latino Rhode Islanders is 4.6 times higher than the rate among white non-Hispanic Rhode Islanders. He said the age-adjusted rate among Black or African-American Rhode Islanders is 2.6 times higher.
On Thursday, Governor Dan McKee announced that Rhode Islanders as young as 50 will be able to start registering for a COVID-19 vaccine on April 5. He said he plans to make all adults in the state eligible to schedule an appointment by April 19.
“From the day I took office my top priority has been building our vaccination capacity and getting shots in arms in as many Rhode Islanders as quickly as possible,” he said in a statement released by his office. “I’m pleased that our supply from the Federal government continues to increase and I encourage all Rhode Islanders to sign up for their shot as soon as they are eligible.”
Outside of these eight ZIP codes, the groups currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine are Rhode Islanders who are over the age of 60, those who are 16 to 64 with specific underlying health conditions, and people who were part of previously eligible groups, which includes health care workers, public safety workers, teachers, and child-care providers.
The news comes as the state’s COVID-19 vaccine subcommittee, a branch of the state health department, met Tuesday morning. Members said they expected 70 percent of Rhode Islanders to be fully vaccinated by the “end of June, beginning of July.”
This was in direct contrast to the subcommittee’s last meeting on March 16, when health officials questioned whether the state would be able to make the president’s May 1 timeline of opening eligibility to all adults, due to supply chain issues.
But the supply chain from the federal government has increased since then, and so have eligibility requirements. McKee made teachers, school staff, and child-care workers eligible for the vaccine in the beginning of March, with a goal of administering at least one dose to every teacher by the end of the month.
On Tuesday morning, the subcommittee said it had nearly reached that goal: Of the nearly 32,500 educators estimated to be eligible, 81.5 percent have been vaccinated or are scheduled to be vaccinated.
In addition, Health Department consultant Sheena Gordon said Tuesday that while high-density communities categorized as “Tier 1″ will continue to expand eligibility and accessibility, there will be a Tier 2 rollout coming soon.
“We’re still determining our initial rollout,” said Gordon, but indicated that the information would be coming soon.
Tier 1 communities include the ZIP codes 02904, 02905, 02907, 02908, 02909, 02860, and 02863. Tier 2 communities include the ZIP codes 02906, 02910, 02911, 02914, 02919, 02920, 02861, 02893, and 02895.
In addition, specific populations have also started to get vaccinated. During the subcommittee meeting, members said that nearly 600 people who are experiencing homelessness have been fully vaccinated. They said that a mobile clinic may be announced soon to reach more people with a single-shot vaccine.
Also, more than 1,000 doses have been administered to people in the state who are homebound.