Surrounded by scarlet-and-gray and Block Os, hundreds of health care workers received the first dose of their coronavirus vaccine Friday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in a pilot run for a public rollout next week.
Wexner Medical Center will use the 770,000-square-foot arena to finish giving shots to its own employees while administering the first vaccines to Ohioans age 80 and older beginning Tuesday.
While just 400 employees were vaccinated Friday at the Schottenstein Center, Ohio State expects to administer first doses to 1,700 on Tuesday, the first day of the public Phase 1B rollout. Thousands of seniors have already scheduled appointments
Eventually, Ohio State plans to scale up the clinic to serve more than 3,000 a day as more shots become available.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” said Dr. Steven Loborec, assistant director of pharmacy. “We’re happy to get this going and excited for additional supplies so we can really ramp things up.”
One of the medical center’s employees vaccinated Friday at the arena was Hannah Cotton, a clerk at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital.
Some of her friends and family, Cotton said, thought COVID-19 was a hoax at first. It took someone from her hometown dying for them to take it seriously, she said.
After getting her first of the two-dose vaccine Friday, Cotton teared up and said she decided to get the shot for her grandmother.
“It’s not like it’s going to make it worse for anybody. If anything, it’s going to make things better,” she said of the shot. “If people miss their family like I do, they should get it too.”
On Friday, workers like Cotton went through the same process the public will go through if they’re eligible to get vaccinated at the arena in Phase 1B. Phase 1B includes Ohioans age 65 and older, teachers and people with severe pre-existing conditions.
Ohio’s 420,000 residents age 80 and up who are not living in nursing homes will go first, Gov. Mike DeWine has said. The state will then open vaccination opportunities to more people each week, expanding the age range to 75 and up, then 70 and older and so on.
Before getting the shot, Wexner Medical Center patients can log into MyChart to schedule an appointment. Those without MyChart accounts can call 614-688-VAXX (8299) to make an appointment.
Patients will enter the arena through its northeast entrance and sign in for their appointment. From there, they’ll be directed down one of the concourses that wraps around the building.
Patients will be vaccinated at tables spaced apart on the concourse. They’ll then be monitored for 15 minutes after being injected, as is required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After being monitored, patients will be directed farther down the concourse and out of the arena.
A doctor will be on-site in case anyone has an adverse reaction to the shot, though rare.
On Friday, Dr. Jonathan Parsons, a pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist, was overseeing the clinic. Of the 10,000 medical center employees who have been vaccinated so far, just three or four suffered unusual reactions that were easily cleared up, Parsons said.
Looking out over the arena hallway lined with tables where people would soon sit for their first shots, Parsons, who has worked at Ohio State for 22 years, said he was excited to be part of what he sees as history.
“This is probably one of the more rewarding opportunities … that I’ve had here,” Parsons said. “People come in here and they’re so grateful to have the opportunity to get vaccinated because a lot of them have had a very horrific year. This is their first step in moving back to a normal life.”