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Younger Ohioans getting vaccinated

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Attendees at the Thursday COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Ohio Valley Mall are getting scare. The last clinic is next Thursday, but Ohioans as young as 12 are now eligible to receive the vaccine.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Some younger people showed up to receive the first of two doses of COVID-19 vaccine Thursday at a health department clinic at the Ohio Valley Mall since the Pfizer BioNTech version has been cleared for children as young as 12.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said more people could be motivated by Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement Wednesday that five random vaccinated Ohioans will receive $1 million each month beginning May 26, and that five vaccinated Ohioans younger than 18 will receive a full scholarship to a state college or university.

Sproul said everyone who has been vaccinated is registered in the state system.

“Just like your flu shot is put in the computer system in the state that monitors your vaccines,” he said. “They can pull that off to see who received the COVID vaccine. … It’s in the state system. If you’re an Ohioan and got your shot, you’re in the drawing. Same with the kids under 18.”

In the early afternoon, Sproul indicated several youth had visited the clinic and added he expected more later that day when school let out.

“The 12-17 crowd can get the shots,” he said.

By the end of the day, Sproul said about 20 people between the ages of 12 and 16 received the vaccine Thursday.

Following two weeks of vaccination clinics at the county’s schools for students 16 and older before summer break, Sproul said he would be in contact with school districts again about the possibility of setting up vaccination clinics for students in that age range.

“Bridgeport school has already reached out to us, so we’ll be going down there to give shots. We’re waiting to hear from the other schools. The big thing is there’s a 21-day separation from first to second dose, they’ll be out of school, so we’ll have to work to get those second doses for those kids,” he said.

Students who receive their first shot and travel elsewhere may get a second Pfizer shot with any provider.

Vaccination clinics will end at the Ohio Valley Mall this coming Thursday. Sproul is also optimistic about DeWine’s decision to lift restrictions.

“It seems like people are still wearing the masks. They’re doing the right thing. They’re doing what they have to do,” he said. “We’re being safer, so he’s opening up for that opportunity for us to do the right thing and get back to normal. There’s probably people who will still wear the mask, and that’s their choice. They may have health conditions and couldn’t get the shot, so they want to wear the mask to protect themselves. Some businesses may also require certain restrictions.”

Some of the younger recipients were also looking forward to normalcy.

“I had to wait because I’m not 16 quite yet,” Brian Leishman of Bridgeport said. “It was hard not going to see my friends and play with them … it’s hard enough being stuck inside. … I’ve been stuck in the house for a year.”

Hasan Ray, 12, of Bridgeport also looks forward to seeing family.

Sproul reported Belmont County has had 6,295 cases since the pandemic’s onset, with 273 people isolated with active cases or hospitalized. There have been 5,904 recoveries, and 118 residents have died after being infected. The latest fatality — a man in his 90s — was reported Friday.

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