HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — Despite Gov. Mike DeWine's promise that Ohio's vaccination campaign would expand within the next two weeks, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said Wednesday her county is short on both vaccine doses and information.
“What we need from the state is, we need more vaccine, and we need the plan,” she said.
UC Health’s CEO and county officials emphasized that while the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been smooth, there is one glaring issue: The availability of the vaccine has been limited.
During a Wednesday briefing, Driehaus said she was frustrated that the county hasn’t been given more vaccines.
“Health professionals are getting vaccinated, of course, frontline workers, of course … emergency responders are getting vaccinated, but we need more,” Driehaus said.
Hamilton County Public Health has been given 500 doses of the vaccine per week so far, Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said. (This does not include the vaccines distributed to the five major hospital systems in the county, three additional health departments and CVS/Walgreens.)
“Five hundred doses for me is certainly very small, and I would welcome seeing more doses here in our county … the message that all of us are taking back to the governor is, ‘Please send more to us so that we can continue to do good in Hamilton County,’” Kesterman said.
The rollout of the vaccine has hit snags across the country. CNN reported that about 15.4 million vaccine doses had been distributed in the U.S. as of Monday, but only 4.5 million people had received their first doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When will people 65 and older be able to get vaccinated in Hamilton County?
Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that the second stage of Ohio’s planned COVID-19 vaccine rollout will immunize K-12 school workers, Ohioans over the age of 65 and people with severe developmental disabilities.
DeWine said the phase 1B could start within two weeks, depending on how much vaccine the state receives from the federal government.
But Driehaus said she has yet to see a plan to begin vaccinating people over 65. There are 128,313 people over the age of 65 in Hamilton County, Driehaus said, so it will be necessary to ask DeWine for more vaccines.
“We need to know what those numbers are. We need to know who’s getting that vaccine and where it’s going so that we are ready to go in two weeks when those vaccines become available,” she said.
Lofgren: ‘These vaccines are safe’
UC Health CEO Dr. Richard Lofgren said the hospital system has vaccinated more than 5,100 employees since Dec. 14. Lofgren said it’s exciting to be at the point of discussing vaccine rollout, but he stressed that the overall availability of the vaccine has been limiting.
Lofgren said it is important for the public to understand that the vaccine is safe. He said he realizes the vaccine was pushed out quickly, but he emphasized that no shortcuts were taken when it comes to the safety of the shot.
“I think it’s very important that the community understands that these vaccines are safe,” Lofgren said. “Because the science was there before the pandemic, we were able to season what was already out there in terms of developing an effective vaccine.”
People who have been vaccinated have reported minimal side effects, Lofgren said. He said people tend to have more of a reaction to the second dose; fatigue and body aches are common. But those reactions are simply the body’s immune response and are markers that the vaccine is working, Lofgren said.
Lofgren said he hopes that anyone who is offered the vaccine will take it because it will help save lives.
COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County
Kesterman said the county has seen a slight increase in cases over the last seven days, which leads him to believe that some of that uptick is because of Christmas. He said his team will monitor case counts closely over the next few days to see if New Year’s had an impact.
Hamilton County officials said people need to maintain social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands in order to control the spread of the virus while health officials wait for the vaccine to be readily available.
“I know this is a year of hope because of the vaccine … but we’re not there yet,” Kesterman said.
Monday marked the second week that Hamilton County Public Health officials were able to vaccine health care workers and people who live in congregate settings.
Asked if vaccinations will have to carry over into 2022, Kesterman said local health officials will have to see what types of other vaccines might come from other providers. Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses and have to be stored at cold temperatures.
“Our plan is to make sure we get the vaccine we’ve received quickly into arms, but at the end of the day we’re at the liberty of what the state gives us,” Kesterman said.
COVID-19 case counts as of Wednesday:
- 54,379 cases of (increase of 3,852 from last week)
- 2,136 hospitalizations (up 72 from last week)
- 421 deaths (up 10 from last week)