AKRON, Ohio — A mass vaccination clinic at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland is set to launch this week, but Akron's smaller version at Chapel Hill Mall remains in a holding pattern.
Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said she's waiting for guidance from Governor Mike DeWine's office that will help determine if and when parking lots at the mall can be cleared as a drive-thru vaccination site.
"I think what they have said is it's pushed to the end of the month, beginning of April," Skoda said. "We're really hopeful that as the vaccine picks up, then we can get these sites organized and we can open."
On March 5, DeWine announced that the mall will be one of more than a dozen mass vaccination locations in Ohio.
Skoda is hoping for more firm answers this week regarding the use of Chapel Hill Mall. If the site receives the final green light after the county's vetting process, as many as 3,000 people could get shots each day.
"It would be fabulous to have a site here. It's wonderful because we can get a lot of people vaccinated and that's what we need to do," she said.
The health commissioner believes a big reason for the delay in finalizing a plan in Akron is the ongoing effort to monitor vaccine availability.
"We don't want to set these sites up and start rolling and then only have 100 doses to give out."
Summit County Public Health is scheduled to administer about 3,600 doses at the health department this week. Two thousand additional doses are expected to arrive later in the week.
SCPH has set up a lottery system through its website where people who are eligible for the vaccine can sign up. The registration for the eventual mass vaccination site in Akron will work differently, but Skoda hasn't been given any specific direction from the state.
"We aren't real sure what the state will require us to use yet," she said.
Joyclenn Beyner, a 57-year-old hair Tallmadge hair stylist, is eligible for a vaccine but has struggled to find an appointment.
"Just on the computer all the time or the cell phone or calling Rite Aid and Walgreens," Beyner said.
She said she wants to get the shot as soon as possible to better protect herself and her clients. In addition, she would like to be vaccinated by the end of the month when she leaves for Mexico for her son's wedding reception.
"The sooner, the better. Just anxious to get it," she said.
Julie Gardner is the CEO of Equitable Federal Credit Union located on Brittain Road across the street from Chapel Hill Mall.
Gardner, who doesn't want to get the vaccine, said she's worried about traffic from a mass vaccination site causing problems for her members.
"If they're looking at 3,000 a day, that's quite a bit of traffic. This is already a very busy intersection and a very busy road," Gardner said.
Skoda said traffic concerns and safety are issues the county is continuing to analyze while waiting for a final decision about using the mall to vaccinate thousands.
The waiting game is just another exercise in patience during a very trying time.
"I think it's the pandemic. It's sort of been like this the whole time. This is our first time at this pandemic stuff," Skoda said.