COVID Vaccine Phase 1B Starts with Ohioans 80 and Older

CEDARVILLE, Ohio — As vaccinations continue to ramp up in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said the next steps will include getting them to people 80 and older.

Over the next week, Phase 1A will continue for most hospitals as they administer vaccines to first responders, front-line hospital workers and those working or living in congregate care sites such as nursing homes, DeWine said during a coronavirus update Thursday. Next week, portions of Phase 1A will be concluding while some will continue, particularly with administering the second shot, needed to make the vaccine fully effective.

Phase 1B of the vaccination program will begin the week of Jan. 19, as vaccinations are made available to Ohioans who are 80 years old and older – those who are the most vulnerable and have the most risk of death if they contract COVID-19, DeWine said. That week, only those Ohioans in that age group will be able to receive the vaccine.

“That’s people in the general population,” DeWine said. “Not people in nursing homes. We’re already working that through.”

DeWine estimates individuals age 80 and older comprise 420,000 to 450,000 members of the general population. The state is expected to receive about 100,000 doses weekly over the next several weeks, so not everyone in that age group who wants the vaccine that week will be able to get it during that period, DeWine said, “but we wanted to set aside one week where nobody else could get it except those 80 years of age or older.”

Physicians, local health departments, hospitals, federally qualified health centers, in-home health providers and some retail pharmacies will distribute the vaccine. The Ohio Department of Health has some 1,700 providers ready to distribute the vaccine and will add more as needed.

Not all providers will have doses ready by Jan. 19, he said, because the limited doses need to be distributed through all 88 counties efficiently. “As we move forward, there will be additional ones that will be added,” he said.

On Jan. 11, the state will host a webinar for registered providers to outline expectations and instructions for distribution, DeWine said. The following Tuesday, those who have been selected to deliver the vaccine during the week of Jan. 19 will be notified and will receive information on the size of their vaccine allocation.

On Jan. 13 and 14, the state is asking local Emergency Management Agencies in each county to hold a press conference announcing where the vaccine will be available in each county and how individuals can recieve them. Some providers may require appointments, while others will offer drive-thru and walk-in vaccinations.

“We expect every provider to clearly state how they will administer vaccinations to eligible individuals,” he said.

On Jan. 14, an online tool at Coronavirus.ohio.gov will launch as a source of information on who is distributing the vaccine and to which eligible group. As more vaccines come available, more providers will be added, DeWine said.

After the first week of Phase 1B, the plan is to add five years to the age range each week thereafter, DeWine said. So, starting the week of Jan. 25, the state expects to extend eligibility to Ohioans age 75 and older. The week after that, it will be extended to Ohioans age 70 and older, and so on.

The entirety of Phase 1B includes some 2.2 million Ohioans, he said. When a new age range opens, the vaccine is still available for the previous age group.

On the week of Jan. 25, the vaccine will be available to Ohioans with severe congenital, developmental or early onset medical disorders, the governor said.

“We will announce in the coming days how those individuals will be able to receive their vaccine if they choose,” he said.

Beginning the week of Feb. 1, the vaccine will be made available to school personnel in districts that return to a fully in-person or hybrid learning model by March 1, DeWine said. This week, the state is sending forms to be signed by school superintendents if they agree to that condition.

“Many schools are already open, that won’t be an issue for them,” DeWine said. “Our goal is to have every school child in school by March 1.”

The forms will also be used to inform the state how many individuals in the schools want the vaccine and if the districts are working with vaccine distribution partners. “If they don’t have a partner, we’ll help them get a partner for that vaccination,” DeWine said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted thanked the number of Ohioans who took part in the vaccine trials with Moderna and Pfizer. In the last few weeks, he’s spoken with those who were involved in the trial and who recently learned whether they were part of the vaccination group or the placebo group.

“Those who learned that they were a part of the vaccination group were incredibly grateful,” Husted said. “And reassured that now having had the vaccine for quite a time, that they all have great confidence in that process.”

DeWine said he is disturbed by reports of counties vaccinating individuals who are not part of the intended eligible groups, including reports of those counties vaccinating police officers, who are not yet part of any vaccination groups. Doing so denies those vaccines to residents who are in their 80s, have medical problems and are among the most vulnerable populations, he said.

“We don’t have enough vaccines and we are in a rationing situation,” he said. “Our goal is to eventually vaccinate all Ohioans, and we hope in the not great distant future to include police officers.”

The state has contacted those counties that aren’t following the guidelines and advised those health departments and hospitals that they must follow the order, he said. However, when there are leftover vaccines and “the clock is ticking” on a vaccine’s expiration date, “they need to have a place to go with those vaccines,” he said. 

“What we have asked them to do is before that day, when they’re administering them, have a group of people where they can go if, in fact, they need to put those in arms quickly. We do not want to lose vaccines,” DeWine said.

The state has advised them, when possible, to stay within group 1A or go into 1B when possible, to ensure the vaccine gets into someone who is most vulnerable, he said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.