SPRINGDALE, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine pushed for a faster vaccine rollout on Tuesday, promising to announce the first vaccine providers for the state's older patients later this week.
Local health departments will start releasing that information Wednesday, and once it is out, the local Council on Aging will be in charge of directing seniors to their nearest provider.
The Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio knows it has a lot of work ahead of it, but leaders said what they do over the next few weeks is key to helping those at highest risk reclaim their lives from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's our priority to help as many seniors get vaccinated as possible," said Suzanne Burke, the Council’s CEO.
About 2.2 million Ohioans will become eligible to receive their first dose of the vaccine this month and early next month. People over the age of 80 qualify first, starting Jan. 19.
"We know that 87% of our deaths have come from those who are over the age of 65,” DeWine reported at his press conference Tuesday.
But even with a statewide rollout just days away, major questions remain.
"It gets very confusing about what you're supposed to be doing, where you're supposed to be going and who can get it,” Burke said.
That's where the Council on Aging comes in -- over the past year, they've provided more meals and personal hygiene items for seniors who can't safely shop. Now, the agency is becoming a new kind of lifeline taking calls from those with questions about the vaccine.
"We will be connected to the various counties and their protocols and what is going on and we'll have all that information for our five-county region, so that we can direct people who call in,” Burke said.
Though the CDC now recommends the vaccine be made widely available to people age 65 and older, Ohio will maintain its vaccination schedule for now.
"To dump everybody in that first week, I don't know that that accomplishes anything," DeWine said.
Burke said seniors of all ages are already calling, and the Council is urging patience while acknowledging for many of Ohio’s seniors, the vaccine can't come soon enough.
"It's really important because without the vaccine, life for seniors will not return to normal,” she said. “They will not be able to get out and about into the community and see their families like they want to do."
The Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio takes calls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and other resources are available here. Again, the Council won't have exact vaccination information until later this week.