LIMA — In nine months, COVID-19 has killed more than 3,700 Ohioans living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
But as soon as next week, surviving residents and staff in Ohio’s long-term care facilities will start receiving the first doses of a vaccine that could protect them from the virus should the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grant emergency-use authorization for vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the first of which was anticipated Friday evening.
While many details about the first phase of the vaccination program are still unknown, approved vaccines will be shipped to a Receive, Store and Stage warehouse, where the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Department of Health will remove the vaccines from ultracold storage and repackage them with dry ice.
From there, vaccines will be distributed to hospitals, pharmacies and health departments across the state.
First in line are Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, which will start administering the vaccine to long-term care residents and staff, and 10 Ohio hospitals with ultracold storage.
Pharmacies will set appointments with long-term care facilities that registered for the vaccine program, while hospitals will begin vaccinating staff who are most exposed to COVID-19 patients. Health departments, set to receive vaccines later this month, will focus early vaccination efforts on emergency medical service responders, group homes and any long-term care facilities left out of the pharmacy program.
Lima hospitals and Allen County Public Health should see their first shipment the following week, so long as distribution remains on schedule. But the exact date and number of doses each facility will receive is still unknown, which makes preliminary planning of exactly who will be vaccinated first more difficult.
“If I knew I had 5,000 doses coming in the next two weeks, we can get a lot more people done than if I get 500 doses,” said Brandon Fischer, an emergency preparedness planner for Allen County Public Health.
There are nearly 1,000 residents and staff in long-term care facilities in Allen County alone, Fischer said.
With limited quantities of vaccine available initially, the first phase of distribution is focused on the most exposed and most at-risk populations: healthcare workers, EMS responders, long-term care residents and staff, as well as residents and staff of other congregate living arrangements like group homes and psychiatric hospitals.