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Rhode Island needs more vaccine supply to reach Biden’s goal

March 16, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island may not be able to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of making all adults eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by May because of a limited supply, state health officials said Tuesday.

Much depends on the state’s allocation of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot, officials said at a meeting of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee, WPRI-TV reported.

“But surprises happen, and we would love to be pleasantly surprised,” said Alysia Mihalakos, chief of the state Health Department’s Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response.

The state received 1,300 doses of the J&J vaccine this week, following an initial shipment of 9,100 doses at the beginning of March, but officials projected the state would receive 16,000 doses per week in the near future.

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The state also gets roughly 50,000 total doses per week comprising of 15,000 first doses and 13,000 second doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, along with 10,800 first doses and 10,800 second doses of Moderna’s vaccine, Tricia Washburn, chief of the Office of Immunization, told the subcommittee.

She said that vaccine allocation is expected to double by June.

Nearly 275,000 people in Rhode Island have received a first dose and more than 118,000 people have been fully vaccinated, according to state numbers released Tuesday.

The state on Tuesday made just 1,890 new first-dose appointments available, because most of the doses this week are being used for second shots, health officials said. About 10,000 first dose slots are opening this week at the retail pharmacy locations, according to Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Health Department.

The state this week will also be updating its signup website, vaccinateRI.org, to reduce error messages and to set up a virtual “waiting room” to take care of the issue of appointments appearing to be available, even though other people are in the process of booking them.

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UPDATED NUMBERS

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Tuesday reported more than 260 new confirmed coronavirus cases and seven additional virus-related deaths.

About 230 of the new cases were patients who tested positive for the first time on Monday, while the rest tested positive on previous days.

The state has now had almost 132,000 cases and 2,583 fatalities.

The number of people in the hospital continues to slowly decline, and was down to 132 as of Sunday, slightly fewer than the previous day.

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Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have developed a saliva-based COVID-19 test that they say is less invasive than the more common nasal swab tests and less expensive.

The test is currently undergoing clinical trials on campus as part of the final phase of data collection and validation in preparation for submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization.

According to the university, FDA approval would have “far-reaching implications, both at home and abroad, in terms of increasing accessibility to testing to help manage pandemic response.”