Rhode Island updates COVID vaccine availability for youngest children

Gov. Dan McKee and Interim RI Health Director Dr. Uptala talk with reporters after touring a COVID vaccination clinic at Thundermist Health Center in West Warwick July 5, 2022. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

About a week after starting to vaccinate children under the age of five against coronavirus, about 500 children have received their first shots, Rhode Island officials say.

“The very young children have only just started, so we’ve done about the first 500,” said the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Interim Director Dr. Uptala Bandy Tuesday morning, after joining Governor Dan McKee on a tour of the Thundermist Health Clinic in West Warwick where free vaccines are available seven days a week.

“We’re growing the opportunity (for vaccines for children) mainly among pediatricians in primary practice and everywhere else, including Thundermist here, that has an open door policy, anyone six months and up can come in and get a vaccine,” Dr. Bandy said. She added that she has already encouraged vaccines for her own grandchildren.

“I have two grandchildren, they’re two and four years old, and they’ve already got their first doses. So, it’s going well. And, just as we did with all the other vaccine programs, we’ll grow it and make it successful.”

This was Dr. Bandy’s first appearance as Interim Health Director since her appointment June 26 by Gov. McKee to assume the leadership of the Department of Health, after Interim Director Dr. James McDonald said he would leave state service July 29 to care for elderly family members.

McKee said he is going to talk with Dr. Bandy to gauge her interest in assuming the leadership of the department on a permanent basis.

“Well, we’re going to take one step at a time, we love the idea that Dr. Bandy has stepped up, we’ll have that conversation, McKee said.

“I happen to believe you hire from within when you can, but at this point in time we’re just taking one step at a time,” he said.

“It’s a consent by the Senate, so we’ll have something in their hands by the early part of January.”