WICKLIFFE, Ohio — Officials with the Lake County General Health District say they were struggling with not enough staff to handle mass COVID-19 vaccinations. Partnerships to alleviate some of the pressure include those with local pharmacies, hospitals and private doctors. Now, they’re adding firefighters to the list.
Environmental Health Supervisor Bert Mechenbier, says when his team was mapping out a vaccine distribution plan, fire stations were a natural fit. When vaccines were approved for healthcare staff, frontline workers and others included in the state’s 1A group, Mechenbier says distribution was tested out inside a fire service garage.
"Fire departments usually have multiple bays, we can have multiple vehicles in each line and have a pretty steady through point of people getting the shots,” he said. "Right now, we're able to do about 250-300 people in a six-hour shift."
Now, as we prepare for phase 1B to launch Tuesday, Jan. 19, they're expanding. Mechenbier says by the time the vaccine is available to the general public, Lake County residents will most likely be going to a fire station. He says pre-registration and appointments will continue to be required in order to help provide an efficient flow in keeping up with demand.
"We have people in our building less than two minutes to get their shot, but we stop them three times before they get in the building to make sure their paperwork's in order, answer all their questions, make sure their jacket's off, their sleeves rolled up."
It's currently small scale and it's still a work in progress, but health officials are working to potentially open more sites at fire stations once vaccine availability grows. We’re told they will join county health officials in helping notify people on when and where they can get vaccinated. However, the state’s new online vaccine provider search tool launched on Friday on its coronavirus website page. The tool allows people to search for nearby vaccine providers based on their county or zip code.