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Struggling with overwhelming demand, Ohio asks White House for more COVID-19 vaccine doses

Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 20:16:51-05

CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is asking the Biden administration to increase the state’s COVID-19 vaccine supply as soon as possible — although, per the governor’s remarks on Tuesday, “as soon as possible” might not be until March.

“The most important thing you can do is get us more vaccine,” DeWine wrote to President Joe Biden on Monday, two days before he officially took office. “We can deal with most of the other challenges surrounding its distribution, but the need for more is an imperative.”

Biden has already used executive orders to take wide-ranging political action on a variety of issues, but he had not publicly responded to DeWine by Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, local health agencies such as Hamilton County Public Health are struggling with a demand that badly outstrips supply.

TIMELINE: When Ohioans can get the COVID-19 vaccine

“Eighty-year-olds, we just started working with them this week,” Hamilton County Public Health health commissioner Greg Kesterman said Thursday. “In Hamilton County, we had about 8,000 doses dedicated to them. There’s about 30,000 people that are probably 80 years or older in Hamilton County.”

And there are over 400,000 people in the 80-plus age group throughout the state, but DeWine’s administration receives just 100,000 doses to distribute each week.

Even if every available dose were given to an Ohioan over the age of 80, health officials would need more than a month to ensure all of them had the opportunity to receive it.

The state’s vaccination schedule doesn’t allow for that. By mid-February, over two million Ohioans — all those over 65, all K-12 teachers whose districts have committed to in-person or hybrid learning and all those with certain high-risk conditions — will be eligible to receive the vaccine.

Unless something changes at a federal level, Ohio will still be receiving just 100,000 doses per week. DeWine said Tuesday he doesn’t expect significant expansion until March, when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will become available.

Kesterman encouraged people in Hamilton County to remain patient and remember the process is moving as fast as it can.

“I like to remind people that we knew this would be a slow process,” he said. “This is a new vaccine. There’s only two companies (Pfizer and Moderna) that have temporary authorization and approval from the FDA.”