NORTH SMITHFIELD – The first set of vaccinations for North Smithfield and Burrillville residents ages 75 and older were administered on Saturday, Jan. 30 at Smithfield High School, to a list of residents put together by officials in both towns this week.

News of the vaccination event – the first focused on the specific population determined by each municipality in northern Rhode Island – came from the Rhode Island Department of Health mid-week. Residents from Burrillville, Glocester, Woonsocket, Smithfield and Lincoln also received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, with 60 specifically dedicated to North Smithfield’s candidates.

Burrillville residents received 80 doses of the vaccine in a distribution effort determined by the size of each town’s population.

Starting in February, North Smithfield is expected to receive between 60 and 80 additional doses each week, according to Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski.

Zwolenski and his staff worked with Linda Thibault of Senior Services and Town Councilor Claire O’Hara to quickly identify those from town who qualified and were able to attend the weekend vaccination event, held at the “regional pod,” in Smithfield. He noted that future vaccination events will take place at a site in town, making it easier for seniors who may not have access to transportation.

The quick effort to provide a list of candidates, Zwolenski noted, was accomplished with the help of Fire Chief David Chartier,  Administrative Asst. Donna Rovedo, Col. Peter Branconnier and Councilor Kimberly Alves, along with Thibault and O’Hara. Candidates had to be identified and entered into an RIDOH system prior to vaccination, so phone calls were made well into the night.

Zwolenski noted that as word traveled that the shots were becoming available, phones at Town Hall began ringing this week.

“The phones did not stop,” he said.

Alves volunteered to help answer and relieve overwhelmed Town Hall staff. By the deadline to submit names, officials had identified 59 out of 60 potential recipients.

“We did our best,” Zwolenski said.

Branconnier also identified residents at Colonial Village and Deerfield Commons who are eligible, and have been added to a list for the next round. That round will continue to focus on the town’s oldest and most vulnerable residents, and the administrator noted that there are several hundred who live in North Smithfield.

Branconnier is looking into the possibility of offering transportation to those who qualify.

In Burrillville, Town Hall staff worked with police and fire officials, reaching out to residents of Bradford and Aston Courts. Efforts to provide transportation to future vaccine events for those who need it are also underway there.

Burrillville officials note that more information is expected on Monday, Feb. 1, and efforts will be made to reach out to additional residents.

“We have a list going now,” explained Councilor Raymond Trinque.

As vaccination efforts continue, the target population will move down in age brackets as mandated by RIDOH.

Zwolenski said residents should be on the lookout for news regarding the town-wide effort on sources including NRI NOW.

On Saturday, those who received the shot at the Smithfield school were monitored for around 20 minutes for any adverse effects after the first dose is administered and then scheduled for their second dose.

And as the new month begins, vaccinations for those in North Smithfield will take place at a more local level, with the help of those who have stepped forward to volunteer.

North Smithfield residents age 75 and older who want to be added to the list to receive the vaccine should contact Branconnier at 401 767 2206 or nsema@cox.net.

In Burrillville, residents should await further details expected Monday afternoon.

Editor’s note: The above article has been updated as of Monday morning, Feb. 1, with the latest information from Burrillville, where Town Hall officials said residents should await further information. 

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