There’s a rush for COVID-19 vaccines in many parts of Ohio, as those who are eligible race to book appointments for shots as soon as they become available.
Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles examines why.
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It’s the first day of a mass vaccination clinic at St. John Arena on Ohio State University’s campus. Amy McCormick of Kroger says this Columbus mass vaccination clinic is set up to be efficient.
“It’s a well-oiled machine. Our goal is to get as many people through as we can. We are averaging about 300 vaccines an hour. Just over 3000 a day and then again, over the course of four days, we’ll execute over 12,000 vaccines.”
Kroger is also operating a similar mass vaccination clinic at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. Slots at both locations were filled almost as fast as they went online. There’s also a federal vaccination clinic at the Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland.
This is one of Ohio’s 15 mass vaccination clinics in big cities as well as smaller towns, including Dayton, Cincinnati, Athens, Youngstown, Steubenville, Ada, Zanesville, Marietta, Maumee, Lima, Wilmington and Akron. Soon four mobile clinics will soon be operating too.
And there are more than 1200 pharmacies and medical clinics statewide where people can get their shots.
At St. John Arena, it’s cold and rainy but that isn’t keeping a steady stream of Ohioans from coming in to get their COVID shots.
Lorezno Thomas from Columbus says he is thrilled to be getting his first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
“I gotta get it. I just want to be safe for my family, for everybody.”
Thomas is African American, a group that medical experts fear might be hesitant to get the vaccines. State health leaders have been reaching out to minority populations in recent weeks with town halls and PSAs including prominent African American Ohioans. Thomas says the people he knows don’t need any more convincing.
“Everybody is getting their shots. All of my neighborhood is getting their shots. They beat me to it.”
While some city dwellers say they are going to small towns to get their shots, some residents there are making the trip to the bigger vaccination clinics like this one. Rachelle Hepperly came from Waynesville.
“I think that as soon as we are available to do it, we should do it. I work in the medical field but I wanted everyone who needed it first to get it. I’m an administrator so I thought I’d kind of wait but I wanted to make sure to get it because if it is what we can do to help everybody else, we should get it.”
Some county-run clinics may demand shots go only to local residents. And some surrounding states may refuse to vaccinate Ohioans. But anyone who meets the age, medical or occupational restrictions put forward by the state is welcome to use Ohio’s state sponsored mass vaccination clinics. Christopher Rieder of West Palm Beach, Florida has been staying with his older parents in Central Ohio, helping them through this pandemic. He didn’t want to wait until he returned home to get his vaccine.
“The sooner the better for me as far as I am concerned because herd immunity is going to be really hard in this country, you know 80%-75%, there are so many people saying ‘I don’t need it. I don’t want it’ so the more of us that get the shot, the sooner we will get to a place where we can think of it as the flu, where we can just think, ‘I’m ok. I’ve got it covered.’”
The supply of vaccines has been ramping up in recent weeks. And as that has happened, eligibility has been expanded. Anyone 40 or older or who has a long list of medical conditions or who works in qualifying occupations can get the shot now. And on March 29th, anyone over 16 will be able to get vaccines, although minors will be restricted to getting doses of Pfizer. Almost 24% of Ohio’s total population have started the process of getting COVID vaccines. More than 13% of all Ohioans are fully immunized. The state set up the website gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov to provide information about locations where shots are available and how to schedule them.