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What's the best strategy for seniors to get a vaccine appointment in Ohio?

WCPO old person getting vaccine.png
Posted at 5:08 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 17:15:38-05

Carol Pangallo’s hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment took her to Meijer, Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy and Clermont County Senior Services before she landed in WCPO’s voicemail inbox looking for help.

She knew she and her husband, Joe, would both be high-risk patients if they contracted COVID-19. She’s 68 and an ovarian cancer survivor; Joe is 75 and lives with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, one of the conditions known to increase the risk of severe illness and death in COVID-19 patients. Both are eligible to receive a vaccine, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Still, she said in a voicemail, “there is no place I can find in Clermont County that can help us get the shot.”

Around the same time, viewers Pat and Bob Becker emailed WCPO calling the search for an appointment “a fool’s errand” after poring over the state’s vaccine website.

Around a million Ohioans had gotten at least one COVID-19 shot by Monday afternoon, but over a million more — including Carol, Joe, Pat and Bob — are still competing with each other for scarce appointments across the state.

Mostly, the problem is numbers. Ohio receives about 146,000 doses of vaccine every week, according to Gov. Mike DeWine. He expects that supply to increase dramatically before the end of March, but for now, that’s what it is: 146,000 doses every week to be shared among over 700 designated vaccine providers and given out to the 2.2 million seniors, health care workers, nursing home residents and K-12 teachers on the list for a shot.

Sometimes, the solution can be numbers, too, said Southwest Ohio Council on Aging representative Kim Clark.

“Every company or every pharmacy or whatever that is providing vaccines, you got to call all of them,” she said Monday. “You got to get on all their websites. You just don't limit yourself to one."

She said the Council on Aging can help with the other part of the problem: Access to information.

“Our experts, they have a greater ability to be able to navigate through these systems and help people,” she said.

Carol Pangallo eventually got through to Clermont County’s Board of Health, but the Council on Aging was able to help Pat and Bob Becker find a vaccine appointment in Oxford, Ohio.

Advocates have also found appointments as far as Dayton for other vaccine-seekers, Clark said.

"We'll have some tell us, ‘I don't care how far I have to drive. I will drive an hour to go get it if that means I can have an appointment,’” she said.

Still, there are no guarantees. The numbers problem can nullify cleverness and extra help if doses simply run out.

Clark said the most important thing for vaccine-seekers is to simply keep trying.

If you're a senior looking for help with a vaccine appointment, you can call the Southwest Ohio Council on Aging at 513-721-1025

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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.