LIMA — Within 24 hours of announcing its first vaccination clinics for residents 80 years and older, the Auglaize County Health Department received so many calls from elderly residents eager to sign up that the health department has already booked all of its appointments through the end of January.
In Putnam County, members of the volunteer medical reserve corps and county EMS have been calling residents on the county’s vaccine waiting list ahead of the health department’s first 1B vaccine clinic.
And the phone lines at Allen County Public Health were overwhelmed Thursday afternoon, with a Facebook post Thursday evening announcing appointments for next week are full. The health department started accepting appointments for its first round of vaccine clinics for 1B priority groups, which will focus initially on Ohioans 80 years and older gradually expand to include anyone 65 years and older as well as adults with severe congenital, developmental and early onset medical disorders and employees who work in school districts that resume in-person instruction by March 1.
Eighty-seven percent of all COVID-19 deaths reported in Ohio have been among Ohioans 65 years or older.
But less than one quarter of Ohioans who are at least 80 years old are expected to see their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine next week.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday said the state is still anticipating 100,000 additional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will arrive at local health departments, pharmacies and other vaccine administration sites between Monday and Wednesday, while more than 420,000 Ohioans are older than 80.
Ohio hospitals have until Sunday to finish administering vaccines to any healthcare workers who have not yet received their first shot before reallocating unused doses toward the 1B vaccination effort, which may free up additional vaccines.
Many of those hospitals, among them Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System, will then transition to administering vaccines to the public.
Dr. Matthew Owens, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, said the hospitals and county health departments are trying to deliver vaccines in “the most expansive and fair way possible.”
But due to high demand, Owens said the public should remain patient so the state can conserve supplies for those who need it most.
“It was very easy for us to be specific and controlled through the nursing homes, skilled nursing facility populations and then our workforce,” Owens said. “But now that it’s open to the general public, we need to do this in a coordinated fashion. We need to be able to do it in a way that we’re using the vaccine supply for the population that needs it most and then building from there.”
Each week, the state plans to expand eligibility by five years until all Ohioans in 1B priority groups —roughly 2.2 million people — have access to the vaccine.
The anticipated timeline:
• Week of Jan. 18, adults 80 years or older
• Week of Jan. 25, adults 75 years or older and Ohioans with congenital, developmental or early onset medical disorders
• Week of Feb. 1, adults 70 or older and adults who work in K-12 settings
• Week of Feb. 8, adults 65 or older