LIMA — Fewer coronavirus shots were given in Allen County this past week than in the first week of January, a worrying trend as Allen County and other parts of Northwest Ohio fall further and further behind in Ohio’s immunization effort.
Only 30% of Allen County residents have been fully or partially vaccinated as of Friday, according to Ohio Department of Health data, a number that has been relatively stagnant since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention briefly paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April.
The pause came at an inconvenient time for Allen County Public Health, which had recently started a mass vaccination effort at the former Knights of Columbus Hall that relied on the single-dose shot to inoculate hundreds of people per day.
Average daily vaccinations in Allen County have remained low since the CDC lifted its pause Saturday, even though the health department is now offering both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots and vaccines are widely available at pharmacies and other sites throughout the county.
Dr. Wilfred Ellis, an infectious diseases specialist and board president of the Allen County Board of Health, said the pause may have exacerbated concerns among adults who were already unsure about the vaccines, who make up the majority of those who have not yet been vaccinated.
But the rare blood clots associated with that vaccine are a “one in one million” event, Ellis said. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still an excellent product for the prevention of COVID-19,” he said.
The single-shot vaccine is critical to Allen County’s efforts to bring shots to vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, as the shot only requires one dose and can be stored at normal temperatures that make it easier to transport.
Allen County Public Health is now partnering with the Area Agency on Aging to bring vaccines to homebound adults, for example.
And the health department announced this week that it will coordinate pop-up vaccination clinics with churches, apartment complexes or businesses as needed.
“We have to go to the people, if that’s what it takes,” Ellis said.
College campuses and companies have adopted a similar strategy to getting their workforces inoculated, offering on-site coronavirus shots in lieu of requiring proof of vaccination. And most vaccination sites, including those at pharmacies, are now accepting walk-ins now that ample vaccines are available.
“We thought that if we could offer them the convenience of an on-site clinic, it might encourage them and help them get the vaccine,” said Lisa Sabourin, manager of wellbeing and joint programs for Ford Motor Co., which is planning an immunization clinic at the Ford Lima Engine Plant in May.