With Rhode Island fast approaching its goal of getting 70% of the eligible population at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the state is shifting its strategy to reach the roughly 280,000 eligible people in the state who have not yet received a shot, officials said Thursday.
“It’s less about volume and more about being hyper-targeted,” Tom McCarthy, the head of the state’s COVID-19 response team, said at a news conference.
One priority now is reaching the roughly 13,500 Rhode Islanders over the age of 75 who have not yet received a vaccine, he said.
Starting this week, the state will reach out directly to those people by phone and bring the vaccine to their homes, he said.
Getting people in that age group vaccinated is critical because they have about a 50% chance of landing in the hospital if they contract COVID-19, said Dr. Philip Chan, an infectious disease specialist with the state Department of Health.
People who have not yet been vaccinated fall into three groups, McCarthy said: a small group unwilling to be vaccinated; those hesitant for a variety of reasons; and people who just haven’t gotten around to it.
To get to those people, the state has started offering vaccination clinics at high schools and workplaces, and same-day or walk-up appointments. About 2,500 walk-up patients received shots late last week, officials said.
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that every single Rhode Islander is given the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” McCarthy said. “We’re putting the vaccine in the path of every eligible Rhode Islander.”
Those refusing or hesitant to get a vaccine may change their mind if they hear from a trusted source, such as their doctor, so the state is also working on a plan to get the shot to primary care physicians without wasting any doses, he said.
The main concern now is the spread of COVID-19 variants, Gov. Daniel McKee said.
“The variants are still a challenge,” the Democrat said. “They are much more contagious and can impact people harder than the first strains we saw.”
The variant first detected in the United Kingdom is now dominant in the state, Chan said.