Rhode Islanders ages 18 and older in seven of the state’s hardest-hit zip codes are now eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The City of Providence on Monday announced expanded eligibility in the zip codes 02904, 02905, 02907, 02908, and 02909 in Providence, which include some adjacent neighborhoods in North Providence and Cranston. 

The City of Pawtucket also announced Monday that it is removing age restrictions for its vaccination clinics. That means Pawtucket residents 18 and older are now eligible to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine; those 16 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

The expanded eligibility guidelines were approved by the state Health Department as vaccination rates continue to lag the statewide average in most of Rhode Island’s hardest-hit communities, particularly Latino and Black residents, according to state health department data. The only exception is Central Falls, which was prioritized at the start of the state's vaccination effort because of its population density and health disparities.

Residents in “high-density zones” also have higher rates of hospitalization and death than residents in other parts of the state.

“The hospitalization rate is actually higher for folks 25 and over in these HDZ zones than it is for people 60 plus outside” of these areas, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza said at a news conference.  “We need to make sure we get to those most impacted.”

Residents in these zip codes can sign up for shots at vaccination sites run by the Providence Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) or community partner sites. However, they will not be eligible for appointments at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center or at pharmacies, city officials said in a statement.

Residents can register for a vaccine on the City of Providence’s  online portal or, if they need help, they can call the Mayor’s Center for City Services by dialing 3-1-1 or (401) 421-2489. Help filling out registration forms is available to residents in English or Spanish.

Pawtucket residents can register for vaccinations at the city’s online website or, if they need assistance registering they can call the BEAT COVID-19 help line at 855-843-7620.

But getting an appointment for a vaccine in Providence is expected to be more difficult. 

Elorza said he expects a “logjam” as more residents try to sign up for appointments and the wait times could increase from a week to “a couple of weeks.” That all depends, he said, on the state's vaccine supply.

Rhode Island's vaccine supply from the federal government, he said, is expected to increase gradually over a period of weeks.

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

updated 2:49 p.m.