Vaccine Rollout: It’s All About Supply 

by | Jan 12, 2021

At current rates, it will be February or March before phase one is completed

During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, the council and town manager discussed the deployment process for COVID-19 vaccines in East Greenwich, which began late last month at Swift Community Center for some health care workers and first responders. 

East Greenwich’s site – which is serving several communities – is one of five municipal PODs (points of distribution) around the state. 

Rhode Island is currently in the first phase of vaccinating its population, with hospital staff, hospice workers and nursing home staff and residents marked as the first group to receive the vaccine, followed by other medical employees, public safety workers and adults over 75. 

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the state right now is getting around 14,000 vaccine doses per week, enough to vaccinate 1.5 percent of the state’s population. Phase one is large – around 200,000 people. That means many people even in the phase one group won’t get their first dose of vaccine until later this month or February or even March for people 75 and older. According to Town Manager Andy Nota, much depends on the amount of vaccine the state receives. In other words, it’s all about supply.

The vaccinations happening at Swift are for health care workers, first responders, school nurses and those who are working at the vaccine hubs. Nota explained that nursing homes including the Saint Elizabeth Home, Atria Harborhill, the Seasons East Greenwich, Regal Court Elderly Housing and Shoreside Apartments are able to vaccinate their residents and staff through partnerships with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. Nota said that the pharmacies will visit these locations each for three days: The first day will involve administering first doses of the vaccine, the second will include both first and second doses depending on the receiver and the third day will exclusively administer second doses of the vaccine to those who have already received the first dose, according to Nota.

“We can’t say thank you enough for that partnership between CVS and Walgreens,” Nota said. “I think it’s going to help a community like ours significantly at those facilities, and help expedite the dispensing to those populations that are really susceptible.”

The Swift clinic finishes first-round vaccinations Jan. 12. Nota said the Swift clinic will take a weeklong pause for vaccinations and will reopen for second doses of vaccines for those who already received the first dose on Jan. 25-26, Feb. 1-2 and Feb. 8-9.

Moving forward, Nota said that it’s imperative that essential workers, including town employees, are vaccinated so that they can be safe enough to provide for the community. That’s why people who staff the vaccine PODs are eligible to receive the vaccine, even if they are Town Hall workers or do maintenance work. 

“So in doing that, we’re utilizing the employees who work for the residents of this community to be able to manage that site, and at the same time be vaccinated,” Nota said. “We’re trying to prevent from happening again what occurred in one of our departments and that was the unfortunate impact of COVID cases within our own fire department, which really crippled that department, albeit in a short period of time. Everyone was fortunate and has come back to work and are doing well. But I think all of us could sense the pressure that we were under in a public safety mode of public service.”

Town Council Member Caryn Corenthal, a teacher herself, asked Nota if he knew when teachers would be vaccinated. Nota said that school nurses are included in Phase One, and said he hopes other school staff will be able to receive vaccines in February or March but he did not have exact dates.

Nota also addressed the upcoming town budget and its dependence on state aid. He said that it is too early to be certain of exact numbers, but he was fairly optimistic.

“As noted previously and at our meeting with the School Committee, state aid numbers in FY 21 are looking favorable at this point,” Nota said. “Our very early projected FY 22, state aid figures also look favorable. But again, they are extraordinarily early, and they are not based on the projected $400 or $500 million debt structural deficit that the state may be looking at as they prepare for FY 22. The other point is that you’re going to have some key, probably budget and other governor’s office staffing adjustments during the transition [from Gov. Gina Raimondo to Lt. Gov. Dan McKee]. So I think it’s a little premature to really start talking too significantly about FY 22.”

You can find Nota’s full report here: Town Manager Nota’s Report, 1/11/21

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