GEORGETOWN, Ohio — Ninety-four-year-old World War II veteran Johnny Miller on Friday became one of the first Ohioans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of a hospital.
He and other residents of long-term care facilities are some of the highest-priority patients in the state’s vaccination program, given the risk the novel coronavirus poses to seniors and people with compromised immune systems. They’ll still have to wait at least a month before they’re fully protected — and likely longer before visitation resumes at most facilities.
“I was hoping I was going to get to go outside and meet you people,” Miller told Lt. Gov Jon Husted, who observed his vaccination from outside the Ohio Veterans Home where Miller lives.
Brown County, where the home is located, has reported over 500 cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks. At the home itself, 13% of residents were ill with COVID-19 at the time Miller received his vaccination, according to data collected by the Ohio Department of Health.
Sixty veterans and 50 staff members were vaccinated there Friday, with similar events held at nine other long-term care facilities in the state.
All of them will need a second shot in 21 days to complete the vaccination.
And after that, there’s still waiting to do. The pandemic is so widespread — and the virus so well-suited to the closed social circuitry of a nursing home — that Ohio Health Care Association executive director Peter Van Runkle said he couldn’t predict when visitation at such facilities might resume.
“There's a lot of questions that still need to be answered,” he said. “We have to get to that level where we have a large percentage of the population that's been vaccinated before we can drop our guard.”
Still, residents of other long-term care facilities are eager for their turn. Traci Statum, whose mother Judie Woolum lives in The Knolls in Butler County, said their family has spent most of the year waiting for the first step to recovery.
“Mom wants the vaccine to buy back her freedom,” Statum said. “She wants to be able to go out to eat again. She wants to be able to go places.”
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