Summit County Public Health took the next step in its COVID-19 vaccination plan by setting up a drive-up site in the agency's parking lot on West Market Street and administering doses of the Moderna vaccine to some of the developmentally disabled in the community.
Over the next couple of days, health officials are prepared to give vaccines to as up to 900 developmentally disabled residents or the people who work with them.
"They're receiving care from caregivers that are in the community so we want to make sure they're protected," said Chris Barker, the emergency preparedness supervisor for SCPH.
Summit County Public Health has received about 3,400 doses thus far and administered about 1,800 of those during Phase 1A of the rollout.
Seven hundred public and private EMS workers throughout the county were among the first to receive an initial dose about two weeks ago.
The county has roughly 1,600 EMS workers, meaning around 900 of them decided against getting the shot for now.
Lt. Sierjie Lash from the Akron Fire Department got her first dose and said she did not experience any side effects other than some soreness in her shoulder.
"There was a waiting period, a waiting area for 15 to 30 minutes after the vaccine was administered so that everybody could check and health officials could check if any side effects did occur," Lash said.
Lash said the department is encouraging the vaccine, but not requiring it.
"We want to make sure that this pandemic, the proportions, the incidents, the occurrences, go down for all of us," Lash said.
EMS workers who received the first dose are expected to get their booster shot on January 23.
Barker said Summit County Public Health also used some of its initial vaccine allotment at a couple of long-term care facilities.
Barker stressed areas hospitals have received their own shipments to begin vaccinating their healthcare workers.
As Phase 1A continues, health officials plan to offer vaccines to mental health organizations as well as those working at pharmacies and the offices of private physicians and dentists, as long as the supply is there.
"There's going to be challenges with getting the vaccine. It's just the reality of this situation, so we're happy to receive what we have," Barker said.
Phase 1B could start in February and the hope is to have the vaccine available to residents over the age of 65 as well as others with health conditions, Barker explained.
"We have to see how allocations will ramp up in the future," Barker said. "It might be a while, but we have on our website a link where they can sign up for information on vaccine availability," he said.
Barker is optimistic that the general population in Summit County will start receiving the vaccine in the spring.
"We're happy to be in this phase. This is Act 2 in the COVID saga and we're happy that we're in this situation now. We have access to this critical resource and we want to get this out to the public as soon as possible."