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Vaccination rate on the decline in Belmont County

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Comparatively few people are electing to receive COVID-19 vaccinations compared to earlier this year, but the Belmont County Health Department continues to administer shots.

“We’re definitely seeing less and less people each week,” Linda Mehl, department director of nursing, said. “This week we only had about 250 or so scheduled (for second doses) and we were doing walk-ins all afternoon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. They’re kind of trickling in.”

The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna versions of the vaccine each require two doses administered about a month apart.

“It’s definitely a lot less than we’ve done the past several weeks, but I don’t think we’re unique in that,” Mehl said.

The health department also held a shot clinic at the Barnesville Exempted Village School District earlier this week and administered vaccines to about 10 students and some staff.

Clinics were also scheduled for homebound individuals at Bellaire apartment complexes. She said the clinic at Dr. William L. Shepard Apartments was canceled when no one was interested, and three people were vaccinated at Rose Hill Towers.

“The numbers are small, but we’re still looking for other locations. We’ve got a couple apartment complexes we’re going to in Martins Ferry in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “We’re continuing to look at other sites we can go to for people with transportation issues.”

She said there will be clinics in the Bridgeport Exempted Village and Martins Ferry City school districts on Friday. Other schools were visited last week.

“This week will complete our first round of the schools for the students. Hopefully we’ll finish everybody up before they get out of school … ,” Mehl said.

“As we move forward, we’ll have to be creative on where we go and how we get it to the people who need it and want it but just haven’t had the opportunity yet. We’re looking at workplaces who maybe want us to come in and do their work force at work hours,” she said.

Vaccine recipients Thursday included Jeremiah Tyler, 17, from St. Clairsville. He received his first shot of the Pfizer version, which is approved for people younger than 18.

“I just really needed it for social stuff. Just getting it to get it, to get with everybody else who has it,” Tyler said. “I haven’t had too many interactions with everybody during COVID, but with the interactions I have had, it’s been hard for me and my friend-group at least to get together and spend time together and be like old times.

“I’m looking forward to times where we spend with each other,” he said. “Going to the beach or something simple. Just going back to simple times.”

One older woman who chose not to be identified said she knew fellow seniors who had died after being infected with COVID-19. She said the closings of libraries and banks made settling a loved one’s estate last year particularly difficult.

She also recalled experiencing the 1957 and 1958 influenza pandemic, adding that she would attend class with only five or six other students, and the teachers were often sick, but she added the schools were not closed.

Another man who chose not to be identified received a dose of the Johnson and Johnson version, which requires just one shot. The man, who said he was battling a serious illness, said he was primarily receiving a vaccine to protect others.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported 6,201 total cases have been confirmed in the county since the pandemic’s onset, while 286 people are isolated at home or hospitalized with active infections. There have been 5,799 recoveries, and 166 residents have died after being infected.

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