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“We are not trying to vaccine as many people as quickly as possible”

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Rhode Island’s incompetence in administering the vaccine is astounding and suggestive of larger problems with technocratic centrism. The above quote comes from this story. See, Rhode Island is merely last in the nation in administering vaccinations.

Harvard University is handing out grades to states based on COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and so far Rhode Island is failing across the board.

On Wednesday, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center released a report card on Massachusetts’ vaccination effort compared with other states, giving the Bay State an “F” in three of four categories.

So Target 12 asked Harvard to run the numbers for Rhode Island — and the Ocean State did even worse, receiving an “F” in all four categories.

Rhode Island currently ranks in the bottom 10 states nationwide for coronavirus deaths per capita; vaccine doses administered; use of available doses; and speed of getting shots into arms. The school calculated each state’s per-capita metrics based on its adult population, excluding those under 18.

But Rhode Island health officials are pushing back on the evaluation. They claim the state’s hyper-targeted approach to vaccinating the hardest-hit communities first is contributing to its unfavorable nationwide rankings – but isn’t necessarily a sign the strategy is failing.

“I’m not really sure it’s fair to grade people on that metric — it’s actually not what we are trying to do,” Dr. James McDonald, medical director at the R.I. Department of Health, told Target 12. “We are not trying to vaccinate as many people, just people, as quickly as possible.”

“It’s really about protecting lives, keeping mortality as low as possible, and keeping people out of the hospital,” McDonald said.

The targeted approach, however, is slower than the one in neighboring Connecticut, which has opened more “mass-vaccination” sites where eligible residents can sign up and get inoculated on a first-come-first-served basis. In Massachusetts, the state is using facilities such as Gillette Stadium as mass-vaccination sites, and Rhode Island plans to open two next week.

As of Wednesday, Rhode Island had administered nearly 60% of the doses it had received from the federal government, the lowest rate across all states, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, one can argue that Rhode Island’s extremely targeted approach is defensible. The state has really focused heavily on those people who are most at risk, even if it means lower rates of vaccinating. I support some of that. The state has a program to heavily vaccinate the town of Central Falls, which is a speck on the map that is also extremely poor and immigrant-centric. It had very high rates of COVID and so the state has gone all in there. But one can absolutely do that and also actually put vaccines in arms! There is absolutely no excuse for being last in the nation in percentage of vaccines used. Moreover, it’s not as if Rhode Island is also doing what needs to be done with the state’s large elderly population.

At the same time, only about 25% of all vaccine doses administered in Rhode Island have gone into the arms of adults ages 60 and up, spurring frustration among older residents whose cohort accounts for the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in Rhode Island and who are anxiously awaiting vaccines.

25%!!!!!!

This is a disaster. And it very much relates to the technocratic centrism of the Gina Raimondo administration. There was a moment a few weeks ago when there was a graphic on one of the state’s sites about who would be eligible in the next week. There were two groups. One was the people who worked at the Rhode Island Blood Bank. And that’s fine I guess, but what we are talking about here, 100 people? 200 people? This is not a useful way to decide these issues. The Raimondo administration has been more concerned with making sure no one jumps the line than it is with actually stopping the pandemic. All of this is also happening with the variants about to overwhelm the nation again and making maximum vaccinations absolutely necessary. Moreover, the moment Gina Raimondo was named Secretary of Commerce, she completely abandoned the state and has just ghosted us while she prepares to move on. This is the platonic example of how technocratic centrism can so easily miss the forest for the trees.

I totally understand the idea of not just opening up to everyone because that would mean the East Side of Providence and East Greenwich whites would hoover it all up. But there is no excuse–at all!–for being LAST in the nation in using available vaccines. There’s no excuse for not vaccinating the elderly. This is just ridiculous.

If Gina Raimondo can’t manage the vaccination of her tiny state against the worst pandemic in a century, I see no reason why she should be leading a federal agency. I’d encourage Senate Democrats to reject her nomination.

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