More than 1,400 people in hard-hit communities who registered for COVID-19 vaccinations this weekend at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence were mistakenly notified that their appointments had been cancelled due to what state health officials are calling a glitch in the state registration system.

The appointments -- scheduled by community leaders and volunteers -- are among 6,000 vaccination slots the state set aside for this weekend after community leaders demanded that Rhode Island do more to address the disproportionately low vaccination rates among people of color at a March 25 news conference outside the State House.

People who received the erroneous cancellation notices are being “individually called” about their appointments, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the state health director, said during a meeting of the State Equity Council on Tuesday. “There was a glitch,” she said, “and we’re fixing it.”  She urged people with “confidence in the system” to reassure residents that they will be able to be vaccinated. 

“The appointments are still valid,’’ Thomas McCarthy, executive director of the state’s COVID Response, said at Governor McKee’s weekly briefing Thursday. “And we're working with our community partners to ensure that there was no confusion.” 

McCarthy said that the “systems issue” has been resolved and residents who received the erroneous cancellations were being contacted. 

But community leaders -- who have been racing to fill the 6,000 available slots -- expressed frustration at the characterization of the problem as a glitch, and said they worry it will discourage residents from showing up for their vaccinations this weekend.



“We were reaching out to communities that were already disenfranchised; we were sending links to undocumented individuals that did not have an email to families where a single point person registered ten,’’ Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, a member of the State Equity Council, said in an interview Tuesday night. “How many people did we lose?”  

(Muñoz is scheduled to announce Wednesday that he is running for governor.)

More than 2,400 single-use registration links for appointments for this weekend have been sent out to residents who indicated they wanted to be vaccinated, Muñoz said, and about 1,800 of those have completed their registration.

Pastor Howard M. Jenkins Jr., of the Bethel AME Church in Providence, said he learned about the problem Tuesday when residents who had signed up to be vaccinated this weekend began calling him saying they’d received emails that said their appointments were cancelled. “I’m just telling them to ignore it,’’ he said, and to show up for their appointment.

“We've always said the system is broken,’’ Jenkins said. “We address an issue. We work with the system. We work with the institution. We are good partners. We're moving along...And then poof!’’




In Rhode Island, as in much of the country, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 have been higher among racial and ethnic minorities. The hospitalization rate for COVID-19 among Latino residents in the state is 4.6 times higher than among white, non-Hispanic residents, after adjusting for age. Similarly, the age-adjusted hospitalization rate among Black residents is 2.6 times higher.

Latinos account for about 17% of the population in Rhode Island and 30% of coronavirus cases. But just 9% of vaccine doses have gone to Latino residents, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Almost 6% of the Rhode Island’s population is Black, but less than 4% of shots have gone to Black residents.

updated 4:20 PM

Health reporter Lynn Arditi can be reached at larditi@thepublcisradio.org