The first phase of Ohio's COVID-19 vaccine distribution will focus on health care workers, emergency responders and people living in congregate medical facilities, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday afternoon.
The narrowly targeted rollout will protect some of the highest-risk Ohioans from the novel coronavirus, but the majority of the state's population will need to wait and practice extreme caution before their turn arrives. In terms of deaths, diagnoses and hospitalizations, the pandemic is worse than ever.
The state reported 10,114 new positive COVID-19 cases, 129 new deaths and 392 new hospitalizations on Friday. Ohio hospitals continue to brace for crisis-level capacity as cases and hospitalizations climb.
"We are in a very tenuous, dangerous situation," DeWine said. "What I think everyone should be able to agree on is we cannot let our hospitals get to the point where health care is dramatically threatened. We are not going in the right direction."
While families decide how or if they will congregate this holiday season, health officials are working with drug makers to distribute a vaccine to protect the most vulnerable and exposed among us in what the state is calling Phase 1A.
Ohio Department of Health chief medical officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the group of vaccine recipients in Phase 1A is a highly targeted group.
"This first tier is really targeted to people who, every day, are facing the highest exposure and highest risk of the virus," Vanderhoff said.
DeWine announced Phase 1A of Ohio's vaccine distribution will prioritize the following:
- Healthcare workers and personnel involved in the care of COVID-19 patients
- EMS responders
- Vulnerable individuals who live together in close proximity and those who care for them, also known as the following congregate care settings:
- Residents and staff nursing facilities
- Residents and staff assisted living centers
- Residents and staff at state psychiatric hospitals
- Residents and staff in group homes for people with disabilities and mental illness
- Residents and staff at Ohio's veteran homes
The first shipment of the vaccine will be coming from Pfizer on Dec. 15. Pfizer will send 9,750 doses to hospitals and 88,725 doses to Walgreens and CVS to be distributed to congregate care settings.
The next round of vaccines will be coming from Moderna on Dec. 22. This shipment of 201,000 doses will be sent to 98 hospitals for those treating COVID-19 patients and 108 health departments for EMS responders.
Pfizer is expected to send another shipment on Dec. 22 of 123,000 vaccines for congregate care settings.
Days later, DeWine said Ohio is expected to receive another 148,000 vaccines from Pfizer and 89,000 from Moderna. It is unclear if these shipments will be sent to hospitals, heath departments or congregate care settings.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shotsthat need to be taken several weeks apart. DeWine said these Phase 1A shipments will be round one of two for those who receive them.
"We hope by mid-January we are onto second shots for people," DeWine said.
Ohio Health Infectious Disease medical director Dr. Joseph Gastaldo called the cornoavirus vaccine a "major weapon" in defeating the virus.
"Having an effective vaccine and vaccination program will be the first major step in getting us back to a pre-COVID way of life," Gastaldo said.
Still, as people grow frustrated and exhausted by the limitations caused by the virus, mistrust in the vaccine runs deep among America's adults.
In a September PEW research study, 49% of U.S. adults indicated they would not get vaccinated. The study also found only 32% of Black Americans said they would get the vaccine. The speed at which the vaccine has been developed has also caused concern for many Americans. More than three quarters of participants believed the vaccine will be approved before its safe.
Gastaldo said both the trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines prioritized safety and the highest scientific testing methods.
"Together, both studies have enrolled about 75,000 people from diverse populations," Gastaldo said. "On September 10, Pfizer will have their data reviewed at the FDA by a group of independent, non-government employed scientists, physicians and vaccinologists and other experts in the field. The data is going to be reviewed with a fine-toothed comb. No stone will be left unturned."
The FDA's advisory meeting on Dec. 10 will be made available for the public to stream online.