CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Health Department worked Saturday to expand its reach into the health care community as it continues administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
The department is also formulating plans as Ohio approaches the next phase of the vaccine roll-out.
At a temporary distribution site set up in the College Hill Recreation Center, health care workers arrived to receive the Moderna vaccine.
"This COVID is something that we really, really need to look at and take it serious," said Jeanette Dillard, who received her first dose of the vaccine. "It's killing too many people."
The Health Department administered vaccines to people in Ohio's Phase 1A group, which includes health care workers and other groups tied to long-term living facilities, convalescent and at-home care facilities.
As Ohio's roll-out expands into Phase 1B, the state says it will communicate with local health departments on Monday about expectations and plans.
"There's a lot of people dying from COVID," said Virginia Scott, director of nursing for the Cincinnati Health Department. "If you read the studies, this vaccine helps. This vaccine does not kill, but we know what COVID does."
Scott said she knows firsthand how deadly COVID-19 can be: 11 of her family members and 10 of her friends have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.
"Out of those 21, I have buried three," she said. "We buried my uncle the week before Thanksgiving."
She said this is why the vaccine is so important, particularly at the community level. She also encouraged Cincinnati's African American communities to sign up as soon as possible, despite some of the reservations and concerns she said she's heard from the community.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minority communities since the start of the pandemic, data has shown. In April, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said initial data showed the African American community made up 21% of COVID-19 patients across the state.
"That certainly is disproportionate to the African American population in the state of Ohio, which is somewhere between 13% and 14%," said DeWine during a conference in April, when he announced the formation of the Minority Health Strike Force, designed to compile data and work toward protecting minority communities strongly affected by COVID-19.
Scott said the Health Department plans to have more vaccine-administration events at a local level throughout the community.
"Anyone, if you think about what's going on with your own personal condition, you need this vaccine," said Scott.
The state advised local emergency management agencies to update communities on Wednesday and Thursday about whom the vaccine will be available to in Phase 1B and where those people can get it.