Lima hospitals continue vaccine clinics

By Mackenzi Klemann -

LIMA — Lima hospitals are continuing vaccination clinics for frontline staff and other health-care workers two weeks after the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine arrived here in what has become a labor-intensive process for hospitals across the U.S., slowed by limited supplies, back-to-back holiday weekends and hesitancy among some health-care workers and others who are the first in line for a vaccine that could bring an end to the pandemic.

Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System started their clinics days before Christmas.

Slots were originally reserved for frontline staff and clinical teams directly exposed to COVID-19, but additional shipments of the Moderna vaccine have allowed both health systems to expand their vaccination efforts to include a larger share of their workforces.

But there’s a long way to go: Only 1,161 people have been vaccinated in Allen County as of Tuesday, according to Ohio Department of Health records, accounting for roughly 1% of the county’s population.

Each vial of the Moderna vaccine contains 10 doses, which are stored below freezing and must be thawed before use.

Once thawed, administrators have only 12 hours to use a vial before it spoils. But they have even less time — up to six hours — once the vial’s seal has been punctured with that first needle, requiring hospitals to have enough health-care workers registered and ready to receive their shot to avoid spoiling the vaccines.

“We don’t want a single dose to go to waste,” said Dr. Matthew Owens, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center.

Hospital leaders here say some of their workers were initially hesitant to receive the vaccine, which was expected before clinics got underway.

But Dr. Owens and Dr. Dennis Morris, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for Lima Memorial Health System, said on Wednesday that they expect hesitation to ease now that the first round of health-care workers have received their first shot with no severe reactions reported.

“They wanted to see how it went with other folks,” Morris said, “and so some of those are starting to come in now.”

Hesitancy regarding the vaccine is not unique to Lima hospitals. On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine said that roughly 60% of Ohio nursing home workers who have been offered the vaccine are rejecting it.

The Ohio Department of Aging has responded by hosting informational webinars to assuage fears among long-term care workers, who were included in Phase 1a of vaccine distribution because those facilities have seen some of the deadliest coronavirus outbreaks of the pandemic.

Among their concerns are the speed with which the vaccine was developed and a belief that the risks attributed to COVID-19 are exaggerated or that they are not at risk for severe complications from the disease, Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy said on Tuesday. Others have expressed distrust in vaccines and the health-care system generally.

“We know that people are hesitant,” McElroy said, “but we’re hoping that their hesitancy is temporary and we can replace it with confidence when they can get the vaccine.”

By Mackenzi Klemann

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