On Tuesday, two more local hospitals received their shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine and were able to begin administering them to frontline workers who come into contact with COVID-19 patients on a daily basis.
On Monday, UC Health received theirs and began giving the vaccines to employees as quickly as possible. St. Elizabeth's Edgewood campus was supposed to receive theirs on Monday as well, but a delay saw their shipment arrive Tuesday morning.
St. Elizabeth received 975 doses on Tuesday, and UC West Chester began administering vaccines to its staff as well.
"There will be lots of people getting vaccines and it's going to leak out to the average folks probably sometimes in January," said Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, who has helped lead UC Health's participation in the Moderna vaccine, which is expected to be approved this week and shipped to hospitals in the next week.
Fichtenbaum said he hopes the vaccines will relieve overwhelmed hospitals.
During a statewide address Tuesday, Governor Mike DeWine outlined the expected dosage shipments to the state in the coming month. Next week, DeWine estimates Ohio should receive another 123,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 201,900 doses of the Moderna vaccines, providing a combined total of more than 420,000 vaccines in the state before Christmas.
Fichtenbaum said he thinks there will be four different COVID-19 vaccines available by February. The approval process has been faster due to the deadly nature of the virus, but researchers and doctors said the FDA is still ensuring the rewards of the vaccine outweigh any side effects.
"I can certainly understand why people might be concerned or might be asking questions on how safe are these vaccines," said Tim Schroeder, a medical scientist with Covington-based CTI, a pharmaceutical research company. CTI is overseeing more than 30 COVID-19 studies around the world.
"But just to make sure people understand, the steps are being followed, the rigor of investigation is there," he said. He said there are more vaccine studies that will be launched in 2021, and researchers are already working on a second generation of the vaccine.
However, Schroeder said the rollout of the vaccine still doesn't mean people should abandon precautions, as social distancing and mask wearing continue to remain crucial to stemming the spread of the disease and keeping hospitalizations and ICU admissions at a more manageable rate than Ohio has seen recently.
Ohio saw its second highest hospitalization admission rate on Tuesday, and DeWine said there are now more people in Ohio's ICU departments across the state than there were total hospitalizations statewide during the previous summer spike.
"I think at this point in time there is no question still wearing a mask is the right thing to do," said Schroeder. "I hope whether it's six months from now or 12 months from now, other than extreme situations, that won't be necessary."
Anyone interested in signing up to participate in a vaccine or medical study at UC Health can sign up online.