LIMA — Starting on Thursday, Ohio will open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to any Ohioan age 60 or older, along with some new medical conditions and occupations exposed to coronavirus on the job. Here’s what you need to know about the next round of shots:
Ohio’s vaccination effort is focused primarily on age, but there are other conditions which qualify younger Ohioans for a shot.
Ohio has added medical conditions like Type 1 diabetes, pregnancy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and bone marrow transplants to its list of qualified people, which previously included a small group of adults with chronic conditions that developed in childhood.
And Gov. Mike DeWine has expanded eligibility to adults who work in law enforcement, funeral services and childcare services, excluding parent volunteers, board members and administrators who are not present in the classroom.
Eligibility will continue to expand in five-year increments until all adults age 50 and older have had a chance to get a vaccine, but DeWine has not offered an exact timeline due to uncertainty over supplies and demand among the 941,000 newly eligible Ohioans. And it’s unclear when vaccines will be made available to the general public, although President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he expects to have enough vaccines available to cover all adult Americans by the end of May.
How to get a shot
There are currently 14 vaccine providers in Allen County, a list that is likely to continue growing.
Most vaccine providers are requiring appointments ahead of time, but each provider handles its own registration process differently. And some scheduling hotlines are only open for several hours or days each week because appointments are booked so quickly. If demand with this next group is high, phone lines and websites could become overwhelmed.
There are no walk-up or mass vaccination sites in Allen County right now, but Allen County Public Health may soon arrange pop-up clinics in neighborhoods or communities where few residents have been vaccinated.
The Ohio Department of Health updates its list of vaccine providers online regularly.
Yes, the vaccines are free
But some vaccine providers may charge an administration fee, which is typically billed to insurance or waived for those who are uninsured. There should be no out-of-pocket expense for anyone who chooses to get inoculated.
Can you cross county lines?
Yes. You can even cross state lines, because the vaccination effort is a federal program. But each state sets its own criteria, so a person eligible in Ohio may not meet another state’s criteria.
Do I need to show proof that I qualify?
No. The Ohio Department of Health has asked providers to rely on the honor system, so you shouldn’t need to show a doctor’s note. But providers will still ask for your date of birth and whether you are employed in a qualified field or have a qualifying medical condition when scheduling your appointment. Providers also expect people to bring their insurance card when possible, although the uninsured will not be turned away. And some clinics may also ask you to bring some form of identification.
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
Yes, but finding a provider with open appointments for the shot of your choice may be difficult. And all three of the vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use were found to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19.
The Moderna and Pfizer shots require two shots spaced three to four weeks apart, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.
“Any vaccine is a good vaccine and is going to help us achieve our goal of getting back to normal,” said Tami Gough, public information officer for Allen County Public Health. “We hope that we don’t have a lot of people that if they get shut out of Johnson & Johnson dose this week or even next week and then they just keep holding out for that. Take a look at the big picture. The point is to get vaccinated, and if it works out timing wise that you need to do the two-dose one, just go ahead and do it. Don’t wait until two or three weeks down the road for Johnson & Johnson.”