This first distribution will be by invitation only.
Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved and the Moderna vaccine looking to be approved in coming days, the race is on to start the vaccination process. East Greenwich will be one of Rhode Island’s first regional vaccination centers, with clinic dates as soon as Monday, Dec. 27, though Town Manager Andy Nota said things continue to shift around.
The federal CDC recommended that local governments develop “points of dispersal” (PODs) where health agencies can distribute and administer vaccines. East Greenwich was selected by the state to serve as the “mid-region” POD, covering EG, West Greenwich, Exeter, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick, and Cranston. The clinic will be set up at the Swift Community Center.
It’s important to note, however, the this first bunch of vaccinations are going to a relatively small and closed group – health care workers as designated by the state Dept. of Health and EMS workers as identified by the different municipalities. In other words, even if you have a preexisting condition do not expect to get a vaccine during this first push. The only people eligible will be given a registration link and will make their own appointment.
Because several municipalities are involved, they will also be helping with staffing. One bonus for anyone who staffs the POD: they will be eligible to get the vaccine. So, Nota said he will be thinking strategically about who should be staffing the POD, hoping to be able to vaccinate those municipal employees with the greatest public interaction.
There will be 10 stations that will allow up to 60 people to be vaccinated per hour at full staffing. The clinic will be open on three successive Mondays and Tuesdays for the first dose, then – depending on which vaccine is given – either 21 days (Pfizer) or 28 days (Moderna) later the process will be repeated to provide individuals with the second dose.
According to DOH, Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses will be transported with aid from the federal government. Hospitals, PODs, and other health centers will then administer the vaccines starting with the Phase 1 group, followed by a larger Phase 2 group that will include essential workers like grocery staff, teachers, and childcare workers.
As the town’s EMA director and the chief MEDS planner/manager, Nota said he would be on site for much of the time along with Deputy EMA Director Fred Gomes and EMA Support staff Jim Fogell. Nota plans to take the vaccine; Gomes and Fogell will be eligible to as well.
“It is important that the community has confidence in the various vaccines, although getting the vaccine is an individual choice for all town personnel,” Nota said via email Wednesday.
Rhode Island’s Mass Vaccination Workgroup co-lead Alysia Mihalakos said vaccination will take “months, not weeks” and that the vaccine’s success will depend on public trust. Health Department infectious disease physician Dr. Philip Chan said, “Vaccine safety standards will not be compromised at all, even for this vaccine.” He warned that people should expect minor symptoms like aches or fatigue from the vaccine doses – they are a normal part of the body’s immune response as it builds up the necessary antibodies to fight COVID-19.
It’s unclear how the vaccines will be distributed beyond Phase 1, but Nota said he anticipated a mix of regional or municipal clinics as well as at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, etc.
In terms of the future roll out of the vaccine, much has been discussed although final plans have not been fully determined. There is talk of continuing to utilize the regional model, going back to a single municipal model with a pod for each town, and also for the larger public distribution, the added inclusion of pharmacies, doctor’s offices, etc.
“I do believe you may need a combination of all such options in order to vaccinate the entire state in a timely manner on such a broad scale.”
With additional reporting from Elizabeth F. McNamara.
Below: A couple tweets of a thread by EG resident and Rhode Island Hospital ED doctor Megan Ranney, in which she debunks myths about the vaccine: