TOLEDO, Ohio — COVID-19 variants would be “wreaking absolute havoc” on Ohio if not for the state’s ongoing vaccination campaign, Ohio Department of Health medical advisor Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said in a Thursday afternoon news conference. With 25% of the population fully vaccinated, all the graphs still go in the wrong direction.
Hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and new diagnoses are up; the average number of cases per 100,000 people in the state, which Gov. Mike DeWine hoped to whittle down to 50, rose to 200 by the time he and Vanderhoff addressed the state from the University of Toledo on Thursday.
“I think this is a clear indication that these variants, which research and literature have told us are more contagious, are in fact more contagious,” Vanderhoff said. “When you take a virus that is more contagious and put it into a population, even though you may be doing a good job with things like masking and distancing, the vaccination — the immunity — of that population becomes ever more important.
“Candidly, I and many other physicians and people in the medical field are absolutely confident, were it not for the levels of vaccinations we enjoy today, the variants, at the levels we’re seeing them across the county, would be wreaking absolute havoc.”
Cases are most concentrated in Ohio's northern counties, many of which share a border with Michigan — the new epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.
DeWine praised vaccine providers, including the university, for adjusting to the state’s decision to suspend use of Johnson & Johsnon’s single-shot vaccine earlier in the week.
Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still in limbo, pending CDC evaluation of a one-in-a-million side effect that affected six women, DeWine and Vanderhoff said the state’s supply of Pfizer and Moderna doses remains strong enough to accommodate all vaccine-seekers.
The University of Toledo had been using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on its students, according to DeWine, but pivoted quickly to a dual-dose regimen so all students could receive at least one shot before the end of their school year.
Like Vanderhoff, DeWine encouraged Ohioans to continue seeking vaccine appointments and urge their loved ones to do the same.
Many vaccine-hesitant people, he said, are far more open to persuasion from friends and family than from the government.
“Our ticket to freedom is the vaccine, and our ticket to a good summer is the vaccine,” he said. "Our ticket to a good spring is the vaccine. It’s our ticket out."