PROVIDENCE – As Rhode Island’s rate of new infections of COVID-19 became among the worst in the world this week, the state is anticipating about 29,000 vaccine doses being available for public distribution this month. Governor Gina Raimondo recently announced the projection while noting that any vaccine, especially those that require two separate doses, would not “flip the switch” and newly introduced health and safety measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing, would likely last into 2021.
“[Vaccine doses] are going to trickle into RI over the course of months,” said Raimondo. “We have to be very thoughtful about how we space out the administration. First to healthcare workers, hospital workers, nursing home workers, nursing home residents, etc.”
“The bottom line is for the rest of us, it’s going to be many months before we’re all vaccinated with two shots,” she continued. “So although the really strict regulations around the ‘pause’ and the business regulations will be able to be eased up, we’re all going to have to settle in for months more of mask wearing, social distancing and following the rules.”
With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now in the process of emergency approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, which comes in two doses and has an effectiveness rate of about 95 percent, Raimondo said about 10,000 doses of that version would be available first, pending FDA approval, followed a few weeks later by about 19,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which also has about 95 percent effectiveness and comes in two parts. The state is now working on reminder methods to encourage and keep the public up to date of when to receive the second dose after the initial shot.
“We are on this all day, every day,” said Raimondo.
The governor also reported the state is now reaching out to doctors and hospitals to help develop distribution methods, and is developing several models for what distribution could look like based on supply. The doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to be available starting in the middle of December and will likely go to frontline healthcare workers and the most vulnerable to begin. More doses are expected to become available in the ensuing months.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Raimondo. “[A vaccine] is not going to flip the switch on COVID-19 in Rhode Island overnight.”
Still, the governor stated that the vaccine represents “the light at the end of the tunnel,” and said the combination of an effective vaccine with following health and safety rules would likely pave the way for an eventual return to normalcy.
“By the time we get to June, July and August, we’re going to have a fantastic summer,” said Raimondo. “I finally feel confident in saying by late spring, early summer, we’re really going to be really back on track and out and about in Rhode Island. In the meantime, though, we have to follow the rules.”
“If we stay serious about following the rules now, we can all look forward to a time next year when COVID-19 is in the rear-view mirror,” she added.
The governor also reminded the public that while pharmaceutical companies were seeking emergency approvals for vaccines at the federal level, the FDA was not lowering the standards or changing the process.
“So if the FDA approves these vaccines, you can have as much confidence in them as any other medication or vaccine you would take,” she said.
While the FDA has yet to grant emergency approval to any vaccine as of Wednesday morning, it is being widely reported that the administration has deemed Pfizer’s vaccine to be safe and effective.