How are Tri-State health officials getting COVID-19 vaccine to hard-to-reach populations?

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 18:53:09-05

For the first time in 12 years, mass vaccinations Wednesday morning hit 500 arms in Hamilton County in one day with public health commissioners promising fair and equal access when COVID-19 protection expands past first responders next week.

But some people who otherwise will be eligible say they're still facing hurdles.

"I've lost a lot of people this year," said Over-the-Rhine resident, Dorothy Darden. She will be among one of the first groups of people to be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, but she worries the online registration process might prove troublesome.

"A lot of people not savvy, and I'm not savvy. I'm just learning," she said, referring to using a computer to register for her vaccination. "It would be nice to have something in place for people to be helped for this to happen."

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman told WCPO that, in addition to the online registration, there is a phone number county residents can call to sign up.

"I am not widely advertising that you can call our office," Kesterman said, hoping not to overwhelm the department's phone system. "But we do have a list started, as well, for people who do not have computers."

Callers and online registrations are randomly chosen for appointment slots. With 500 vaccines arriving each week and 10,000 residents already registered, demand is overwhelming, Kesterman said. It's why public health commissioners plan to announce 47 partners across the county, including hospitals and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreen's.

"We are trying desperately to make sure people can get in line, get in the queue, but I don't want people to think that just because you're in the queue and eligible you're going to get a dose next week or maybe even the following week," said Denise Driehaus, Hamilton County commissioner.

"This is going to take a while," she said.

While digital access stands as one barrier for certain vaccine-eligible populations in the Tri-State, geography stands as another.

Adams County public health commissioner, Dr. William Hablitzel said geographic isolation and spotty wireless phone service are requiring collaboration with the Council on Aging, Meals on Wheels and even township trustees to spread the message about COVID-19 vaccine doses to people in hard-to-reach areas.

"There's a lot of home care where people are going into people's homes and by partnering with those's a really effective way of getting word to those who really need the vaccine the most," Hablitzel said.

Driehaus and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said they will reveal more specifics about continued efforts to roll out the vaccine throughout Hamilton County during a news conference scheduled for Friday, Jan. 15. Northern Kentucky leaders will follow suit later that day.