HAMILTON, Ohio — Weeks after delivery, thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses locally and millions of doses nationwide are sitting on shelves instead of getting into arms.
Between 5 million and 6 million Americans have received the first dose of a two-shot regimen according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, far from the federal government’s goal to give the first shot to 20 million people before the end of 2020.
About 360,000 doses have been sent to Ohio in the nearly four weeks since the first shipment arrived on Dec. 14, according to the CDC. But only about 60% of those doses have been administered, according to Ohio Department of Health numbers. And Ohio is doing better than about 40 other states.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said he is not satisfied with the rate at which the vaccine is being distributed in the state and has urged providers to move faster, even setting a goal for hospitals to administer doses within 24 hours of receipt.
“(The vaccine) does no good sitting on a shelf,” he said. “Waiting two or three days, five days, whatever, someone could have been vaccinated and been protected during that period of time. So there’s a moral imperative that we push this as hard as we can.”
About 2% of Ohio’s population — less than 25% of the 1 million Ohioans in the first priority group (frontline health care workers and group living residents) — have received their first dose. Against this backdrop, Ohio is preparing to begin vaccinating phase 1B in two weeks while it finishes phase 1A.
At the rate of 100,000 doses administered per week, it would take months to complete phase 1A and 1B, let alone inoculate all of the willing 11.7 million Ohioans.
Experts and leaders say this vaccine rollout is unprecedented in American history and providers are doing the best they can within an underfunded public health system while receiving scant information and battling skepticism. Federal guidance has been lacking and health leaders say a coordinated plan from the top-down that utilizes every resource possible is needed.