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County swamped with vaccinations

T-L File Photo COVID-19 vaccinations have been busy at the Ohio Valley Mall. This will continue in the weeks to come.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Vaccinations are proceeding at a fast pace in Belmont County, following the health department’s vaccination of more than 1,000 school staff last week against COVID-19 and announcements that more vaccine will be available in the future.

At the Ohio Valley Mall, health department staff had again set up a clinic Wednesday for Ohioans ages 65 and older who have registered to come and receive their shots.

Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul had time to talk between morning and afternoon vaccinations. He said 400 were expected to be vaccinated Wednesday, with 400 more to be vaccinated today.

Wednesday included first and second doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna versions of the vaccine, with Moderna today. Sproul said he hopes the full 800 injections will be administered this week.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “The president (Joe Biden) stated by May he wants to have enough doses so everyone who wants a dose can have a dose. We’re getting more and more doses every week, and we’re distributing more as we get them in.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is reducing the eligible ages for vaccination from 65 to 60 and older this week, with more people with medical conditions that could exacerbate the virus to be able to receive a shot, as well as people working in law enforcement, as corrections officers, child care professionals and funeral employees.

Sproul has pointed out the high number of senior citizens in Belmont County has meant his office has been swamped with registering and arranging vaccination clinic days. Starting next week, the health department will begin contacting residents in that wider range.

“We’re trying to finish out our list (of people registered),” he said, adding next week the state may have a vaccine management system for online registration.

“Essentially what the program is, you’d be able to click on a website and it would bring up all the counties in Ohio. You would click on your county, and it would bring up all the providers,” Sproul said. “You can make your appointment on that website. … The state is claiming it will be active by Monday. We’re still watching and waiting. Hopefully it will be active my Monday. We can get the link out to everybody, so that way they can get on and start registering.”

Sproul said he expects to see more people wishing to be vaccinated soon, as confidence increases.

“There’s a few people who were kind of waiting on the sidelines to see what was going on with the vaccine, if there were any questions or issues with the vaccine,” Sproul said.

“We’re going to be here for five more weeks. The mall was good enough to let us do five more weeks here, so at least now we’re going to be able to schedule our second doses at this location,” Sproul said, adding he was unable to tell vaccine recipients where they would go for their second dose when the vaccination clinics were mobile.

Sproul said Belmont County has had 5,338 total COVID-19 cases since the pandemic’s onset, with 196 people in isolation with active cases. There have been 4,977 recoveries and 101 deaths, with the latest a man in his 70s.

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