COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine and his wife, Fran DeWine, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday in a procedure streamed live in a feel-good moment later overshadowed by news of a mishap with vaccinations given to a number of nursing home residents.
Some doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered by Walgreens at five nursing homes in northeastern Ohio were not kept properly in cold storage and will have to be given a second time, the governor said. There was no harm from the compromised vaccines, DeWine said.
Walgreens was working with nursing home medical directors to determine which patients received the vaccines, said Bruce Vanderhoff, the Ohio Health Department’s chief medical officer.
“If there is any breach in that cold storage process, the vaccine can’t be relied upon to be effective, to work as it was designed,” Vanderhoff said.
Walgreens said the vaccines were improperly stored before delivery to the nursing homes.
“Walgreens is investigating and has taken additional immediate steps to review and correct our operating procedures to prevent this from occurring again,” spokesman Fraser Engerman said in an email.
Also Tuesday, DeWine said his administration is trying to boost the number of vaccines administered to and available for minority communities.
With feedback from the state’s minority health vaccine advisory group, “we will continue to gain a better understanding of the barriers to vaccination and this will help develop solutions,” DeWine said.
The governor and his wife were eligible for Tuesday’s vaccine dose because both are older than 70, the age group that could receive vaccines in Ohio beginning this week under the state vaccination plan. DeWine, a Republican, had said previously he would not cut in line for the shot but would wait his turn.
The Pfizer dose was administered by Dr. Kevin Sharrett in his southwestern Ohio office. Sharrett said he is frequently asked about the vaccine’s safety. The vaccine is not only safe, it’s a better choice than coming down with COVID-19, Sharrett said.
“The positive benefits of taking the vaccine by far outweigh any kind of negative to the vaccine,” he said. No serious adverse reactions have been seen among the thousands of doses given locally, Sharrett said.
Afterward, Sharrett handed Fran DeWine a red sucker and the governor a purple one.
More than 880,000 people in Ohio have received at least the first dose of the vaccine as of Monday, or about 8% of the population, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
In addition to people over 70, the state also has started rolling out vaccines to employees in some school districts that are having in-person classes or aiming to reopen within a few weeks.
A teachers union sued to try to delay Cincinnati Public Schools’ plan to resume a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning, citing health and safety concerns. But a Hamilton County judge concluded the decision was within the school board’s authority and dismissed the complaint Monday, allowing the district to start bringing students back to classrooms Tuesday.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 6,587 new cases per day on Jan. 18 to 4,346 new cases per day on Feb. 1, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.
The state reported 2,488 hospitalizations as of Tuesday, the second time in a week that hospitalizations dipped below 2,500. DeWine has said the state’s current 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew could be eliminated altogether if hospitalizations stay below 2,500.
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.