Ohio clinics unable to fill their appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine can and should begin making exceptions to the state’s current eligibility criteria, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Although the Ohio Department of Health recommends vaccination only for people over the age of 40, DeWine said vaccine providers may immunize patients as young as 16 over the next six days.
“What we don’t want is any slots not filled,” he said. “We don’t want any of the vaccine sitting there.”
The exception won’t apply to many of the state’s 1,300-odd vaccine providers, the governor added. Most are booked; some are filled weeks in advance.
But the small number that struggle to distribute all their allotted doses will get a brief head start before the minimum vaccination age officially drops to 16 on March 29.
About 2.8 million Ohioans had been vaccinated by the time the governor spoke Monday.
DeWine and Ohio Department of Health medical advisor Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff both described the spring ahead with cautious optimism. DeWine said Ohioans can “pretty much do what they want” as long as they wear masks and social distance; Vanderhoff compared the next several months to the last leg of a marathon.
Until the race is actually over, Ohioans should keep their guard up.
“There's no doubt every day we are, in fact, getting closer to victory, but we haven't reached the finish line yet,” Vanderhoff said.
The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,444 new COVID-19 cases, 78 new hospitalizations and 13 patients who had been freshly admitted to intensive care on Monday — totals roughly the same as the ones recorded in the first days of March.
DeWine said case data in Ohio has mostly plateaued, and significant changes likely won’t arrive unless more Ohioans are vaccinated or — in a worst-case scenario — variant coronavirus strains reshape the state’s public health battle.
The variants reported in nearby states such as Michigan and West Virginia are known to be more infectious than the original strain of COVID-19 that arrived in the United States in 2020, but health officials believe the existing vaccines protect against them just as well.