Rhode Island is opening up coronavirus vaccine eligibility to all people age 16 and older starting Monday, and to make it easier for people to get to a vaccination site, the state will provide free transportation, Gov. Daniel McKee said at a news conference Thursday.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will provide free rides to anyone traveling to or from a vaccination appointment, the Democrat said. People who need a ride should contact RIPTA customer service via email or telephone, he said.
“This move to provide free transportation to people heading to vaccination clinics is one additional step to remove a barrier and make vaccines as accessible as possible,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health.
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The state remains on target to meet the goal of having 70% of the population partially vaccinated by mid-May, and 70% fully vaccinated by early June. That is despite a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot while federal health authorities investigate rare blood clots in a small number of people who have received the vaccine.
“We’re on track with our goals. The J&J announcement did not deter that,” McKee said.
Only about 31,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the state.
Residents who were scheduled to get a Johnson & Johnson shot will instead get the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, McKee said.
Another 16,000 vaccine appointments will become available Friday evening, he said.
Tom McCarthy, executive director of the COVID-19 response team at the Department of Health, said the state is starting to see an increase in people failing to show up for appointments, likely because some people are booking multiple appointments.
He urged Rhode Islanders to cancel appointments if they are not going to show up for them, so that the dose can go to someone else.