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As COVID Cases Increase, Ohio Prepares For Next Wave of Vaccinations

Ohio Health Department

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Ohio jumped significantly on Thursday, the first surge since the Christmas and New Year's holiday.  State health officials reported 10,251 new cases and recorded 94 deaths.  Hospitalizations remain high, with 365 new admissions, and 27 people entering intensive care units.   But Ohio Governor Mike Dewine says the state is ready to start ramping up the vaccination program.

<--break->According to the state's coronavirus dashboard just over 221-thousand COVID-19 vaccinations have already been administered, and by next week some hospitals will begin wrapping up their first wave of vaccinations. Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced Thursday that it's time to start planning distribution of vaccines for the estimated 2.2 million Ohioans age 65 and older.  He say vaccinations for the 1B category will begin January 19th with shots for people 80 years old and over.

"Those receiving vaccines will receive them from - in some cases - physicians, local health departments, hospitals, federally qualified health centers, in-home health service providers, as well as some of our retail pharmacies.  The Department of Health has approximately 17-hundred already registered to distribute vaccines, and will add more.  However, when we go to the date of January 19th, not all of these providers will have the vaccine."

DeWine says 100-thousand doses are expected to arrive for the 80 and older group, with an additional 100,000 every week.  While the state sets the guidelines, it's up to counties to determine how many doses they need and distribute them. Providers like local health departments, pharmacies and doctors will find out next Tuesday how many doses they will receive and when. It will be up to local Emergency Management Agencies to make that announcement to the public.  

As the estimated 420 to 450-thousand Ohioans 80 and over start making their way through the two-shot process, the state will add an additional 5-year cohort to the eligibility list every week.   According to the current plan all 2.2 million Ohio seniors will be eligible for a vaccine by mid-February.

But with a projected new 100-thousand doses delivered weekly, completing even the first phase of vaccinations will take time.  DeWine says Ohio is able to "bank" a second shot with the feds every time the first of the two-shot process is administered.  So the state can continue to add to the rolls of those eligible for vaccination even if the weekly delivery from the feds does not increase.  But he admits there is more demand than supply.

"We don't want people to have to stand in line for hours and hours, or be in a car for hours and hours.  On the other hand, we have a real imperative not to waste any of this.  And a real imperative to get it out as quickly as we can.  So we're creating a situation, yes, where there is a lot more demand than there is supply because we can not waste one of these.  So we have to make sure the supply is sufficient to draw out every week."

As the state proceeds to the next phase of vaccinations in February - teachers and other school staff - the demand will continue to outstrip supply, meaning it could be months until there are enough doses for the general public.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.
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