LIMA — Vaccinations are finally underway for Ohioans who are at least 80 years old, a milestone which Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday hailed as a move to “offense” as the state starts to inoculate its most vulnerable population against COVID-19.
Nearly 90% of all deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Ohio have been among Ohioans who are at least 65 years old, earning these seniors priority in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine rollout that began Tuesday.
“Our oldest Ohioans have been the most vulnerable,” DeWine said. “By beggining these vaccinations today, we are protecting them and taking another step on the road to recovery.”
But with only 100,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines available to Ohioans 80 years or older this week, appointments were booked quickly, often within hours of health departments’ announcements of where clinics would be held.
At the current pace, it could take the state five months to inoculate all 2.2 million Ohioans who meet 1B eligibility criteria, which includes seniors as well as teachers and adults with severe medical disorders.
DeWine on Tuesday said he anticipates the supply of vaccines will remain the same until new products like the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are approved, which could come as early as March.
When phone lines and websites for 1B vaccine clinics went live last week, seniors who tried to make an appointment were often met with busy lines, waiting lists and messages to call back next week, a sign of high demand among a population most at-risk for severe disease from COVID-19.
“We just say: Keep trying,” said Tami Gough, public information officer for Allen County Public Health, which will reopen registration for its vaccine clinics on Thursday.
“Eventually, anybody who wants to get a vaccine will get a vaccine,” Gough said. “Unfortunately, not everybody who wants one is going to get one this week.”
Ohio has administered at least 456,000 shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health, or just under 4% of the state’s population. But that figure also includes about 9% of Ohioans who are 80 years or older, a figure that should grow quickly over the next few weeks.
Eligiblity will expand to adults who are 75 and older next week and continue to expand incrementally as supply allows.