Third vaccine doses being made available

Rhode Island residents with compromised immune systems are eligible to receive a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended its emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna products last Thursday to allow an additional dose in certain Americans. In Rhode Island, cases of the coronavirus have increased for six consecutive weeks, surging from 12 cases per 100,000 population for the week ending July 3 to 176 for the week ending Aug. 14.

“The country has entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, commissioner of the federal agency. “After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose.”

According to Woodcock, fully vaccinated Americans without compromised immune systems are “adequately protected and do not need an additional dose at this time.”

Gov. Dan McKee said Rhode Island residents who qualify for the third shot should schedule an appointment at or by calling 1-844-930-1779. Including the Sockanosset site in Cranston, the third dose is available at all venues where first and second doses are available.

“The vaccine already provides excellent protection against COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and fatalities, and this additional dose will give even more immunity to people who may be a little more vulnerable,” McKee said. “Ample vaccine supply exists in Rhode Island to meet this new demand and we have the infrastructure in place to move swiftly. For any eligible Rhode Islanders who have not yet gotten their first vaccine, it is time.”

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, people are considered immunocompromised if they are seeking active treatment for solid tumor or hematologic malignancies. Recipients of organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants, and people taking immunosuppression therapy, also qualify.

Rhode Island residents with a primary immunodeficiency, such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott Aldrich syndrome, or diagnosed with advanced or untreated HIV infections also should seek a third shot. Finally, people qualify if they are seeking active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, cancer chemotherapeutic agents, tumor-necrosis blockers and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.

Rhode Island will use a selfattestation model for people who are immunocompromised, and documentation of their health status will not be required, officials said. There are approximately 35,000 people in Rhode Island who are considered moderately to severely immunocompromised, the health department said. That number is not broken down by community, it said.

Whenever possible, people who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a third dose of that product, and vice versa for the Moderna vaccine. Interchangeability of the two vaccines, however, is permissible. People should wait at least 28 days between their second and third doses.

Because of the outbreak from the virus’ delta variant, testing for the coronavirus has increased, and the state is amending its operations to support that demand. The 17 testing sites administered by the state, including the train station at Wickford Junction, which is the closest site to Jamestown, now require appointments through portal. or by calling 401-222-8022. Jamestown’s police chief, Ed Mello, said there currently are no plans to reinstitute local testing. For three months in the spring, tests were available every Friday behind St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

From July 26 to Aug. 2, there was a 69 percent increase in the number of tests scheduled at these sites. When demand for COVID-19 testing was lower, these sites would accommodate people without appointments. With demand higher, however, the state is returning to an appointment-only model to make the operation process as streamlined and efficient as possible. Making an appointment reduces long lines and crowding. Rhode Island’s COVID-19 testing program currently administers about 4,600 tests on average each weekday. Rhode Island residents who are not vaccinated are encouraged to get tested weekly, and vaccinated people should be tested if they experience symptoms, even if they think it’s just a cold or allergies.

Six more Jamestown residents tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week, upping the total to 360 cases since the pandemic reached the United States at the start of 2020. The local vaccination rate is 73.2 percent, which is the third-highest rate in Rhode Island after Barrington and East Greenwich.