Despite high infection rate, Providence vaccination rate low

Syringes containing COVID vaccine ready to be administered at a municipal clinic in Warwick March 1, 2021. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence has had among the highest coronavirus infection and hospitalization rates in Rhode Island throughout the coronavirus pandemic, yet it currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates among all cities and towns in the state.

Just 14.2% of Providence residents had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to state Department of Health numbers Thursday. Only Woonsocket has a lower vaccination rate. Nearly 20% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose.

“There are a lot of challenges — a lot of structural things,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza told WPRI-TV. “We have, by definition, hard-to-reach communities.”

The capital city’s low vaccination comes despite the fact that the state is allocating extra doses and authorizing expanded eligibility in some of the city’s hardest hit zip codes.

Reaching out to eligible residents and notifying them that these vaccines are available remains a challenge, Elorza said.

“We need dollars,” he said. “We’ve been relying a great deal on volunteers. … There’s only so long we can do this and so much we can expect from a volunteer-run operation.”

The mayor said he expects more people to get shots when they see that the vaccines are safe and word gets out.