The community food pantry on Whittier Street has long provided meals to people who need them. On Monday, it will offer another essential to the Avondale community: COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are going to go everywhere and anywhere” to deliver shots, Cincinnati Health Department nursing director Virginia Scott said. “We're going to be everywhere, so we're going to meet our communities where they are."
Only about 28% of people in Avondale are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to city health officials. That’s significantly lower than Ohio’s statewide average of 49% and Hamilton County’s average of 52%.
The neighborhood’s low vaccination numbers would be concerning in any situation, but they’re especially worrisome in light of the highly infectious delta variant spreading across the world.
“Biggest barrier for us with the testing, with getting people their vaccination, is people’s fears,” said the Rev. Ennis Tait, who preaches at New Beginnings Church Of The Living God in Avondale.
Apathy may be an additional barrier after months of the vaccine being widely available. In the earliest days of widespread availability, Southwest Ohio saw more than 12,000 shots a day.
Now, only about 1,300 people in the region are vaccinated each day.
Most counties surrounding Cincinnati hover near the statewide average vaccination rate of 49%, with some slightly above (Hamilton, Warren) and some slightly below (Butler, Clermont).
Hamilton County health commissioner Greg Kesterman said he believes the needle might move if more employers begin requiring vaccination.
“We are starting to see some employers look towards mandating vaccines, so I think some of those hesitant folks are going to be required to keep their job to get vaccinated,” he said.