COLUMBUS, Ohio — Many large hospital systems — including Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth — are nowhere close to capacity in the number of Ohioans they could vaccinate if there were enough shots available, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday afternoon.
“There’s a tremendous ability to ramp up what we already have,” DeWine said during a coronavirus briefing, in response to a question about preparations for potential mass vaccinations.
In fact, many of the larger hospital systems and other facilities have the ability to offer “what some people would call mass vaccination sites,” DeWine said, using an example of a Sunday clinic at Thurgood Marshall High School in Dayton, where Kroger, the city of Dayton, Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County and the Ohio Department of Health gave 1,592 people shots.
“I look at what some of the states are doing and they call (them) mass vaccination sites, and I look at what we’re doing,” said DeWine, who visited the Dayton clinic. “You know, we’ve got other health departments and other urban areas that are putting significant sites together, and vaccinate a lot of people in one day.”
DeWine ticked off a handful of hospital systems — including UC Health and other Cincinnati medical centers, Ohio State University, the Cleveland Clinic, UH and MetroHealth — as places that could vastly expand the amount of people getting vaccinated once more shots are available.
DeWine’s office has provided more information about what a more formal mass vaccination clinic would look like in Ohio.
In the initial stages of vaccine rollout, DeWine has opted against a handful of large-scale vaccination sites for the state, and instead allocated vaccines to a number of hospitals, clinics, retail pharmacies and other providers in all of the state’s 88 counties. This is different from approaches in some other states, such as in Arizona, where a mass vaccination clinic operates 24 hours a day at the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium in the Phoenix area.
However, DeWine has said mass sites will be part of the state’s vaccine effort as soon as enough shots are available, and his administration is looking at around roughly 100 sites — including at the Browns, Cavs and Indians venues.
Dan Tierney, DeWine’s spokesman, said several people across different state agencies work daily on potential mass vaccination sites by studying maps, and the potential sites’ proximity to communities, highways, mass transportation routes, parking, nearby hospitals in the rare case that someone experiences an allergic reaction and other factors.
He didn’t say exactly what would trigger the state to organize a formal mass clinic.
“We don’t have enough supplies to ramp up the sites we do have right now,” Tierney said. “Additionally, we don’t know yet what those things will look like down the road…. We do know when supply ramps up, we do anticipate we will do some of these sites.”
Opening a mass vaccination site could depend on a number of factors, Tierney said. One is if there are more vaccines than local capacity to administer them.
There are also different scenarios the state employees are studying for how the sites would be set up.
A mass clinic may be needed for a day, a handful of days or longer, Tierney said. A mass site may be necessary in one community but not others. A site may open if certain communities are being underserved. Decisions about opening mass vaccination sites will be data-driven, Tierney said.
State employees want many potential sites in case one site is unavailable due to an athletic game or other scheduled event. This is more optimal than “saying we’re just doing these nine locations around the state, that’s it,” he said.
Usually, mass vaccination clinics are run by vaccine providers, he said.
The administration of President Joe Biden has offered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist states in mass vaccination sites. The National Guard could also be integral to a mass vaccination site, he said.
“But again, until we have one we’re ready to implement, I can’t say it’ll be one or the other,” Tierney said, referring to who would run or staff a mass vaccination site. “Or if it’ll eventually be all of them.”
Last week, Tierney provided a list of 127 vaccine providers who offered to volunteer at a mass vaccine clinic. He clarified that they volunteered in that they offered to participate in administering vaccines at a mass site, and would be paid for administering vaccines. They also would likely compensate their employees.
“We’ve monitored this every single day,” Tierney said. “And right now we don’t have the problem where vaccine providers are telling us they have too much supply and are having trouble getting it out.”