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State expanding vaccine eligibility in hardest-hit areas

April 9, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE (AP) — Rhode Island on Friday started expanding its COVID-19 vaccine rollout in areas that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Starting Friday, Woonsocket residents age 16 and older became eligible for vaccines, and the same eligibility will open up Monday in West Warwick, Providence, Cranston, North Providence, East Providence and Johnston, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.

In addition, all Rhode Island residents ages 40 to 49 will become eligible on Monday. It’s part of Dan McKee’s plan to make all adults eligible in coming weeks.

“We continue to vaccinate as many people as our vaccine allocation allows,” said McKee said in a statement. “Our increased capacity to get shots in arms puts us on track to meet the president’s recommendation that all adults are eligible for vaccination by April 19.”

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Eligibility is being expanded in Woonsocket first because of how hard it has been hit, the state health department said. In the week ending April 3, Woonsocket had 128 new cases, an increase of 21% over the previous week, the agency said. It also has the lowest vaccination rate of any area in which eligibility has not been expanded.

Roughly 20,000 new appointment slots were scheduled to open at 5 p.m. on Friday, including 1,000 at a vaccination site in Woonsocket.