LIMA — Health Partners of Western Ohio was still waiting on its weekly vaccine shipment to arrive late Wednesday morning, hours before the community health center was to administer shots to seniors at the Bradfield Community Center.
In Hardin County, Ohio Northern University was forced to postpone its K-12 vaccination clinics until next week.
Dozens of other vaccine providers around northwest Ohio have been rescheduling appointments since Monday’s winter storm disrupted travel and delayed some vaccine shipments, further complicating an already confusing scheduling process for senior citizens seeking shots to protect against COVID-19.
Elizabeth West, chief operations officer for Health Partners of Western Ohio, described the weather delays as the latest hiccup in a convoluted process in which the community health center and other vaccine providers don’t know how many doses they will receive from week to week.
West and her staff have already called the 200 patients who were registered to receive a shot at the Bradfield this week to notify them of potential delays.
“It takes a lot of manpower for us to call 200 patients and move them,” West said. “So, I’m really struggling. Until I know when I’m getting the vaccines for this week, I can’t open schedules and get them on for next week because we’re going to have to use next week to catch up from this week.”
This is the fifth week that Health Partners of Western Ohio has been hosting vaccination clinics at the Bradfield Community Center. In that time, West said the clinic has not wasted a single dose of vaccine, even when vials contained more doses than expected.
West said bulk shipments would simplify the process, allowing her to schedule appointments at multiple sites weeks in advance rather than waiting until the end of each week to open its scheduling hotline.
The scheduling process should get easier now that commercial pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens have been approved as vaccine providers in Allen County.
More than 55% of Allen County seniors older than 80 have received at least one of their two shots since Phase 1B immunizations started in January, according to Ohio Department of Health data, while nearly 40% of seniors in their 70s and 15% of those in their 60s have had at least one shot in that time.
Racial disparities in vaccine uptake persist. While 10% of white residents in Allen County have received one or both doses of the vaccine, only 4% of the county’s Black residents have.
Tami Gough, public information officer for Allen County Public Health, on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic has brought pre-existing inequities in healthcare to the forefront, as African-American and Latino residents were more likely to contract COVID-19 and suffer from serious illness than their white peers.
Those inequities have since carried over into the vaccination effort.
The Ohio Department of Health has offered to assist local health departments in hosting pop-up vaccination sites. similar to the state’s pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics. And the state is planning several virtual town halls to address concerns from Black, Latino and rural communities.
Allen County Public Health has also held focus meetings with community leaders, Gough said, and is still welcoming input from affected communities to address vaccination disparities.
“We know there are many causes of the inequities,” she said. “There’s not just one solution.”