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Ohio's rural areas struggle to keep pace with urban counties in vaccine rollout

Vaccine trial
Posted at 10:38 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 23:27:04-04

WEST UNION, Ohio — More than 2 million Ohioans are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, but as the state adds tens of thousands to its roster by the day, the Department of Health's vaccination dashboard shows the rollout happening faster in urban areas, but some rural areas lagging behind.

While Cincinnati is opening mass vaccination sites in areas with plenty of access to transportation, that's not the case in more remote locations in Ohio.

Adams County Health Commissioner Dr. William Hablitzel said he and other local health leaders are finding it hard to keep pace. The desire to vaccinate is the same, but the obstacles aren't.

"The communities and neighborhoods are geographically isolated, so transportation is an issue for all aspects of healthcare,” he said.

That means instead of bus lines, vaccines come courtesy of lifelines like neighbors, church members and friends willing to bring the people they know to the health department or hospital. It's clear that in Adams County and rural communities across the state, herd immunity will be a group effort.

"So, we're concerned about that and we always think about how do we reach people in outlying areas, and we may do some remote clinics out in community centers in different communities,” Hablitzel said.

He recently joined doctors across the state in the department of health's rural vaccine town hall, where Hablitzel worked alongside others to spread the word about the shots - sharing the good news and dispelling myths.

The Ohio Vaccination Dashboard shows Adams County has vaccinated 12.6% of its population. In Brown County, it’s 13.7%; in Highland County, it's 15.5%.

Hablitzel believes Adams County’s 12.6% actually closer to Hamilton County's 20.3%. While the reporting lags behind, he says his neighbors come first.

"We've been at this a year and we're ready for change,” he said. “We're ready to get closer to a normal lifestyle and I think the vaccines give us that opportunity."

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Senior Reporter Larry Seward is focusing his reporting on the COVID-19 vaccine to bring you answers and information. Contact Larry at 513-667-4804 or larry.seward@wcpo.com.