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Sproul: Power loss in health building won’t stall vaccines

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Power was out Friday at the Belmont County Health Department building, according to Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul, but he said there should be no change to the schedule of next week’s extensive COVID-19 vaccine plans.

“Water got into an outlet,” Sproul said in a text message Friday. “We will be open Monday for business.”

As a result, no new COVID-19 data was available for the county on Friday.

Earlier this week, Sproul said his office received 600 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech version of the vaccine for area senior citizens, and the state has approved 1,170 doses for adult staff at the county’s schools. The vaccines require cold storage, but Sproul said there is no danger of the batches being lost.

“It’s on a generator,” he texted.

Sproul added that the school districts have been notified of what day their adult staff members are expected to receive the vaccine this coming week.

The eligible schools and districts include: Barnesville, Bellaire, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Shadyside, St. Clairsville and Union Local public schools as well as the Belmont-Harrison

Career Center and private institutions Green Pastures Classical School, Harrell Family Academy, Lone Oak Lifetime Learner’s Academy, Martins Ferry Christian, Olney Friends School, Scientia Classical Academy, St. John Central Academy, St. Mary, St. Mary Central, Tiber Keep and West Academy.

Union Local Superintendent Ben Porter said his staff would be vaccinated Thursday. Martins Ferry Superintendent Jim Fogle said his district’s vaccination day is Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Sproul said private and religious school staff will go to the nearest public school in their area to get their shots. Staff at Olney Friends School, for example, will be vaccinated at the Barnesville Exempted Village School District.

“We’ve got seven districts to go through,” Sproul said. “Like Martins Ferry (City School District will also have) Martins Ferry Christian, and Martins Ferry St. Mary’s will come to Martins Ferry (City Schools district campus). There’ll be a little bit of community-wise combination … by area. … That’s going to help us go to one place and get a community.”

In other matters, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is emphasizing the importance of providing vaccination opportunities to another vulnerable group: Ohioans with developmental disabilities and qualifying medical issues.

Gloria Llewellyn, assistant superintendent at Belmont County MRDD, said the health workers there who wanted the vaccine have received it.

“It’s been going very well. In conjunction with our local health department we have been working to hold our clinics for the people that we support in Belmont County,” she said. “We already vaccinated for Phase 1 both shots. They received both, so that group is done.”

Close to 200 people were vaccinated, or 85 percent of those eligible.

She said 200 MRDD clients and caretakers were also recently vaccinated in a drive-through clinic. About 50 percent of those eligible elected to be vaccinated.

“It was Feb. 12 we had our next clinic,” she said. “Everyone received their first injection, and then hopefully sometime here in the beginning of March, based on inventory, then we’ll do the second injection.”

“We contacted everyone that we support and the folks that were interested in it received the vaccination, and some people are still changing their minds. We’re having some people who want it now after others have had it,” Llewellyn said.

“It’s a matter right now of the second injection and some people change their mind, that were initially provided the opportunity to get it but declined. We’ll be working with the local health department to make arrangements for them.”

Like everyone else, Llewellyn said the restrictions of the pandemic have hit the MRDD client base as well.

“It has affected them just like it has for everyone else. Hopefully with the vaccinations we’ll be providing them more opportunity so they’re less vulnerable and they can begin to participate in their favorite things that they like to do, like work and activities and getting to see loved ones and family members.”

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