Here’s our vaccine seeker: She’s a 51-year-old woman who lives and works in Ohio but frequently crosses the river to Kentucky on business. She has hypertension, a condition linked to higher risk of complications and serious illness if she catches COVID-19.
Oh, and she’s me.
Curious about my own place on the waiting list for vaccination, I broke myself down into bare demographic attributes and looked at vaccine eligibility requirements in Ohio and Kentucky during the first week of February.
So — what are this candidate’s odds of getting the shot?
Nil, at least if she’s hoping to get it right away. Ohio’s vaccine criteria will, by Feb. 15, cover some of the highest-risk and highest-priority groups in the state — nursing home residents and staff, frontline health care workers, K-12 educators and people with certain severe health conditions. Outside those groups, you’ll need to be 65 or older to secure a dose.
And Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he expects eligibility to freeze for “a number of weeks” after mid-February so everyone with the ability to get the vaccine by then actually has a shot at landing an appointment. The pause will be helpful for the 2.2 million people competing for around 150,000 doses per week; for the rest, it’s a long period of holding our breath.
Our candidate doesn’t work in health care or education, so her profession doesn’t move her up the list. Hypertension, despite making a potential COVID-19 case more dangerous, isn’t on the Ohio Department of Health’s rundown of qualifying conditions.
But Kate Schroder, a special advisor for the nonprofit Health Collaborative, said people with chronic conditions like hypertension should monitor future eligibility updates to see if they’re added in the next expansions.
"I'm not making these decisions, but I would expect some of those conditions like hypertension to be part of additional rounds coming up," she said.
That’s it for our candidate in Ohio. What about Kentucky?
Not any more promising, it turns out. Although “media” is on the state’s list of essential workers eligible for a shot under the upcoming “Phase 1C,” Northern Kentucky Health Department administrator Robin Feltner said her department will only vaccinate Kentucky residents.
As it turns out, I'm in the same spot as millions of others living in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana: Waiting at home, checking local websites, hoping we’ll be next on the list.