CLEVELAND, Ohio — Statewide demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is flagging slightly, Gov. Mike DeWine said in a Tuesday news conference. To an extent, that’s what he and health officials like Ohio Department of Health advisor Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff expected.
About 39% of Ohioans have started their vaccine process; about 31% have completed it. ODH’s highest-ever day of first-time vaccinations was March 31, two days after the state opened up vaccination to everyone — over 106,000 Ohioans started their immunizations that day.
But the agency has recorded less than half that number every day since April 10.
“I think it’s like a lot of things in life,” DeWine said of the vaccine process. “A lot of things you kind of divide into thirds, you know, the first third is easy. In this case, the last third is really, really hard.”
DeWine said the people who urgently wanted the vaccine likely sought it out as soon as they could —during January or February for many seniors and during March for everyone under the age of 70. Many of them are preparing to finish the process if they received Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines; they may have been done for weeks if they received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Now, DeWine said, eligible people who aren’t vaccinated mostly fall into two groups.
“We got a group out there that’s never going to get it,” he said. “It’s OK. That’s their decision. (And) we have the persuadable ones. We have the ones who are in the middle, the ones who — for whatever reason — just haven't gotten it yet, maybe have some hesitancy.”
DeWine said he believes the best way to reach hesitant-but-persuadable Ohioans is for their friends and family to get vaccinated, too. Personal connections are more meaningful than messages from the government.
In the meantime, DeWine said the government will focus on continuing to make the vaccine widely available. More clinics are offering walk-in appointments, and slackening demand means less competition for a spot.
“What we have to do is make it available,” he said. “We have to make it as easy as we can.”
Changes to quarantine health order
Fully vaccinated Ohioans no longer have to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19, DeWine announced in the same news conference.
The state government’s new policy, which applies to most people who have received all doses of their COVID-19 vaccine and waited two weeks for their body to build up its immunity, chiefly affects organized activities such as school sports and extracurriculars.
“One of the things that’s been very tough for (high school students) this past year is that, if they were exposed outside the classroom to someone, they had to quarantine,” he said. “We’ve had our students that have missed big athletic events, might be missing debate, might be missing some other extracurricular activity. We know that’s been very tough on them.”
About 21% of 16- and 17-year-old in Ohio have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. DeWine added he believes Ohioans over the age of 12 will soon be eligible for the shot, too.