With more than 40% of Ohioans unvaccinated against COVID, the Ohio Department of Health is urging people to get those shots. And they say it’s critical with the way the highly contagious delta variant of the disease is spreading.
Close to 60% of Ohioans who are eligible for vaccines have gotten them, and that number is higher for people over 60. (Note: the state's COVID dashboard reports 45.2% of Ohioans are fully vaccinated as of July 14, 2021, but that's a percentage of the total population, not just of those who are over 16, which is the minimum age to be vaccinated.)
But it’s lower among people under 50. And now there’s a new reason for experts to urge vaccines.
“The delta variant is rapidly increasing and is on a trajectory to become the dominant strain in Ohio," said Ohio Department of Health medical director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.
He added those who haven’t gotten the shots need the protection that they provide. ODH said 90% of people who’ve been hospitalized with COVID since April were not vaccinated.
Vanderhoff said he can understand why some people might be hesitant about taking a vaccine that’s been around for just seven months – even though it’s been rigorously tested and determined to be safe.
“However, I don’t think it is appropriate to make decisions on the basis of bad information. I think we need to look for sources of good information, reliable information," Vanderhoff said, citing scientific research and peer-reviewed medical literature as long-standing sources of good information.
Vanderhoff said while there are risks to the vaccine, he describes them as “tiny”, and says the benefits are “vast”.
Dr. Andy Thomas with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is a little more direct with his concern about the false claims that have been spreading about the COVID vaccines.
“I think those who express concerns about the vaccine having a chip that tracks their whereabouts or magnetizes them – I think those are disinformation, which is beyond unfortunate," Thomas said. "It’s disturbing.”
Thomas refers to some of the false claims made to the Ohio House Health Committee hearing testimony on a bill that would ban all mandatory vaccines - from Thomas Renz in February and Sherri Tenpenny and Joanna Overholt in June.
Tenpenny falsely claimed that there is "some sort of an interface" between metal in the COVID vaccine and 5G cell towers, and that the shots are "magnetizing" people. Overholt followed that up claiming a key and a bobby pin would stick to her, but both fell off her neck as she tried to demonstrate this claim. Renz said that children can't contract or spread COVID, and no child under 19 in Ohio has died of COVID. In fact, nearly 80,000 thousands of cases of COVID have been reported in the 2020-21 school year, and there have been 30 deaths in that age group. A video of Renz’ testimony has been removed from YouTube.
Renz is also an attorney who represented eight Ohioans in a suit against the Ohio Department of Health over its COVID orders, claiming they were “tyranny”, but the group dropped the suit in March.
OSU’s Dr. Andy Thomas said with that in mind, he’s putting people who are hesitant about the vaccine into one of two buckets.
“The first bucket where it’s just disinformation. It’s clearly things that are irresponsibly being put out there by individuals where there’s really no basis in fact," Thomas said. "The second group, where there’s hesitancy around some of these potential complications from the vaccine – those are being studied.”
Cases and hospitalizations have ticked up lately – but the Ohio Department of Health can’t say whether that’s the delta variant or the result of July 4 gatherings.
ODH does say the delta variant, which is causing cases to climb in Asia and has brought new restrictions and shutdowns in Europe, is highly contagious and is a real threat to the unvaccinated, especially for those under 50.