SHS COVID vaccination site a success

SHS COVID vaccination site a success

SMITHFIELD – Nearly halfway to the goal of 2,000 vaccinations, Smithfield Emergency Management Agency Director Todd Manni says the town’s COVID-19 vaccination site is running “like a well-oiled machine” and will be prepared for when the R.I. Department of Health allows for community vaccinations.

As of Monday night, the vaccination site at Smithfield High School, 90 Pleasant View Ave., had seen more than 700 vaccinations administered to northern Rhode Island’s first responders and health workers, Manni said.

In total, SHS and Smithfield EMA will host seven vaccination nights serving as the regional distribution point working under the direction of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Manni said Smithfield EMA is working through the priorities handed down from the RIDOH to determine who to vaccinate, and those people register for a 10-minute time slot through an online registration system.

“We’ve been doing great. We’ve been getting people through, in and registered, vaccinated and out the door in about seven minutes,” Manni said.

As for the COVID-19 vaccine, Manni said he is “very confident” and comfortable with it.

Side effects are similar to a tetanus shot, with people experiencing soreness from the shot. For those skeptical about the vaccination, Manni said he is recommending it to everyone who asks, including his family members.

“In my opinion, the benefit of being vaccinated for COVID-19 far outweighs any side effects. I’m not a physician. I don’t even play one on TV,” he said.

Manni said he is questioned about the vaccination almost every day, and though he supports it, he recommends people visit the RIDOH website at Health.RI.gov for more information. He added that pregnant women and people with allergies speak with a health professional before getting vaccinated.

“I encourage people to get educated,” he said.

Currently, Manni said there is no timeline for when the vulnerable populations of elderly and immunocompromised and the general public will be getting the vaccine.

He said the vaccinations are all controlled on the federal level, and the SHS site was given an allotment to distribute.

Manni said the Smithfield EMA has been activated since Feb. 25, which is the longest period recorded. He said the vaccination site is working with EMA volunteers, including physicians and pharmacists, who have proven that the plan in place is a successful one.

“They chug along all night,” he said.

Manni said he believes things will begin looking like normal in the late summer and early fall, as long as people continue to practice social distancing guidelines.

“I’m hopeful we’ll emerge from this,” he said.

The SHS vaccination site, open for three nights as of Monday, came days before RIDOH’s COVID-19 testing site was moved from the Greenville Stop & Shop to the VFW building at 47 Farnum Pike. COVID-19 testing began at the VFW on Monday.

With cold weather here, the RIDOH will rent the facility from Smithfield for $4,000 a month, and the town will pay for the heat.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said the town locked in a rate of $2 per gallon for oil to heat the building. He said the facility may be converted to gas heat at some point in the future.

Rossi said residents complained that the testing site at Stop & Shop was so near a food source. He said the grocery store and RIDOH struck up a deal without the town’s involvement.

Rossi said the town will use the rent money to help with possible shortfalls for reimbursement for COVID-19 expenditures, and any leftover money could be used for capital improvement projects.

Robert Johnson, of the RIDOH, said he expects the VFW site to administer between 200 and 250 tests per day due to the small size of the building.

Sign-up for the VFW testing site is available at covid.ri.gov/testing.