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Seniors frustrated, confused about vaccine rollout as counties try to keep up with demand

Seniors frustrated, confused about vaccine roll out as counties try to keep up with demand
Posted at 5:22 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 12:08:36-05

CLEVELAND — Ohioans ages 75 and up and those with certain health conditions can now start scheduling appointments for their COVID-19 vaccines as part of Ohio’s Phase 1B.

However, many in that group are expressing their frustration at the rollout. They said they can’t get the answers or help they need with each county handling its vaccine roll out differently. Several viewers commented on their frustrations on News 5’s Facebook page.

At his weekly press briefing Tuesday, Governor Mike DeWine said state officials are developing a central scheduling system where people can schedule appointments by entering their zip code or county.

“It makes it easier to navigate for those who can use a computer and those who have a computer and those who are tech-savvy at least enough to do that,” DeWine said. “So we think it will be an improvement. But we know that we also have to reach people who can't navigate that.”

DeWine said officials are doing outreach in various communities in order to come up with a plan to connect with people who have trouble accessing the internet.

In the meantime, counties are coming up with their own processes for the vaccine rollout.

Dave Covell, the health commissioner at Lorain County Public Health said the county gets anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 doses a week for the 1B phase.

“As soon as we get the vaccine, it gets into someone's arm within the week,” Covell said.

Covell said the agency has the capacity to mass vaccinate anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 people a week, but the supply just isn’t there yet.

“So what we do is we just schedule out a mass clinic and then figure out how many we can actually invite to that clinic,” Covell said. “And sometimes that might only be five hundred or it might be two thousand.”

Last weekend, they vaccinated more than 1,900 seniors ages 80 and over during a walk-in and drive-thru clinic. Tuesday, they held another with an additional 1,000+ doses.

Covell said as more people become eligible for the vaccine, older people shouldn’t worry about being phased out.

“If you're 80 and above, you'll still have those opportunities to come and get it,” Covell said.

In Lake County, officials say more than 30,000 people have expressed interest in getting the vaccine using their online scheduling tool. But over the last two weeks, the county has only received 300 doses for phase 1B.

“We've been pulling vaccine resources between our agency and Lake Health and also working in conjunction with the Lake County Emergency Management Agency so that we can really work together to provide a bit more reach and get a little bit more mileage out of our vaccine and do it in a manner that is a little bit less confusing to the general public,” Matthew Nichols, director of the Office of Health, Policy, and Performance Improvement at the Lake County General Health District.

Together, Nichols said they’ll be able to vaccinate 1,400 people by the end of this week. But he wants people to be aware of the difference between eligibility and availability.

“Folks will see that 80+ is open this last week and 75+ is open this week and just kind of think once they see that, that there's a vaccine there and that may or may not be the case.”

He’s encouraging seniors to sign up with their scheduling tool so the county can set them up with an appointment and to also explore other options, like retail pharmacies.

Lake County’s online COVID-19 vaccine scheduling tool can be found here. Information about Lorain County’s vaccine clinics and community partners can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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