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DeWine: More vaccines for more Ohioans

CEDARVILLE, Ohio — COVID-19 vaccinations will be expanding in Ohio.

Gov. Mike DeWine spoke about the increase Monday, noting that with the majority of school staff vaccinated by his deadline of March 1, more doses now will be made available to Ohioans age 60 and older and those in a wider variety of occupations.

As of Thursday, the age of eligibility will be lowered to 60.

“Anybody above 60 is eligible … 93 percent of our deaths are those 60 and above,” DeWine said.

“We had stayed on 65 for close to a month.”

During his talk on The Ohio Channel, DeWine said the additional available vaccines have allowed the state to proceed.

“What puts us on offense, really, is having the vaccine. We have more vaccine coming in the state of Ohio,” he said, adding the new Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine will begin shipping soon. Unlike the prior Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech versions, which require two doses about 29 days apart, the Johnson & Johnson version only requires one shot.

“Ohio will get 96,100 doses in the first week,” DeWine said, referring to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

This week, Ohio will receive a total of 448,390 vaccine doses.

“This is by far the most doses, more doses than we’ve received any other week,” DeWine said. “We felt it was time to expand the group that is eligible.”

He said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be sent to more than 200 independent pharmacies throughout the state. Ohioans may call their nearby pharmacies to find out if it is a carrier and to make an appointment. Vaccine providers are listed by county and zip code at coronavirus.ohio.gov

“We have expanded dramatically the number of actual locations,” DeWine said, adding the 750 providers will be increased this week to 1,200, including hospitals and health departments.

Because of the increased availability of the vaccine, DeWine announced the 1-C group will soon be eligible for vaccination. Following frontline health workers, the 1-B group of Ohio’s vulnerable senior citizens 65 and older were eligible, along with those Ohioans with serious medical issues.

The 1-C group includes people with more medical conditions that may exacerbate the virus and the risk of death, such as type-1 diabetes with no requirement of being hospitalized, pregnant women, and people who have had bone marrow transplants. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease also qualifies.

Other occupations now eligible for vaccination include law enforcement and correction officers, child care professionals and funeral employees.

DeWine said about 246,000 Ohioans in all are eligible under 1-C.

“That will go into effect Thursday,” DeWine said.

In Belmont County, Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said he expects the Johnson & Johnson version to be available in late March. He said the vaccination of adult school staff went well last week, with 1,170 doses given. This week, 800 doses will be administered during two clinics for people who have registered with the health department.

Health department staff in other counties are also looking forward to ramping up vaccinations.

“We’ve always anticipated that as we move through time, more products would become available,” Harrison County Health Department Administrator Garen Rhome said. “The limited supply will become less limited, and we’re thankful and grateful for that.”

He added his office currently has been receiving weekly allotments of an average of 200-300 vaccines.

“We’re beginning to see an increase right now in our numbers of vaccine from what we got in the very beginning,” Monroe County Health Commissioner Linda Dick said. “They based it on population.”

Dick said Monroe County received 100 vaccines per week at the start of the pandemic, and about 300 weekly doses now.

Sproul reported 5,313 total cases since the pandemic’s onset, with 207 people in isolation with active cases and 4,945 recoveries. There are 62 people hospitalized and 99 people have died after contracting the virus.

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