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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Panel Continued: The Beginning of the End? Ohio and COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

City Club Staff

On February 4, we presented a forum on Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution process. We received more questions than we had time to answer during the forum. Our panelists – Terry Allan, Robert Jennings, and Dr. Sherrie Dixon Williams – took the time to answer all the remaining audience questions.

1. Why do our local officials not have the answer to the future weeks?

The Ohio Department of Health determines the scope of each phase of the Ohio vaccination campaign. The state has been using guidance from the National Academies of Sciences in determining the phases of the pandemic.

The Governor has not announced the focus of the next phase and has indicated that Ohio will continue to work in Phase 1B (seniors over age 65, developmentally disabled, and those with congenital health issues and adults working in schools) in the near term, given the significant number of people in this group and the limited vaccine supply. There is not presently a timeline on when the announcement of the next phase will be.

2. While we are waiting our turn to get vaccinated, how can we help and do more to support the great work of MetroHealth and Cuyahoga County Board of Health? Are there volunteer opportunities? Places to donate? Best ways we can spread trusted information?

Thank you for your interest in assisting. You can sign up to volunteer through the state website. Volunteers are designated as either medical or non-medical and are contacted as needed by the county of their residence.

3. Our Governor seems reluctant to acknowledge the risk of COVID to people who are currently incarcerated. Are there efforts on the local level to prioritize COVID vaccines in our jails and prisons?

The limited availability of vaccine has required a phased approach in rolling out opportunities for vaccination in Ohio. Ohio is using the framework from the National Academies of Sciences to guide the development of their approach. State leadership is well aware of the wide range of at-risk sectors, including incarcerated populations, given the number of outbreaks that occurred in those settings throughout 2020.

4. Vaccines have different levels of prevention. At least one requires just a single shot. Can a person pick which particular vaccine they get? Or should we just grab the first one available?

Vaccine is shipped to Ohio through a federal allocation process. Ohio receives their allotment of vaccines, which generally includes vaccines from different manufacturers on a weekly basis, based on what vaccine is available nationally for distribution. Consequently, vaccine providers in our community will make available to the public whatever vaccine they receive from the state.

5. How can groups such as retired physicians and medical students assist the department of health in their efforts to get the vaccine into people's arms?

Thank you for your interest in assisting. You can sign up to volunteer through the state website. Volunteers are designated as either medical or non-medical and are contacted as needed by the county of their residence.

6. The implications that Black people are simply ignorant to the benefits of the vaccine has been rather off putting since talk of it began. Personally, I’ve almost died twice due to racist hospital negligence; our skepticism of medicine is valid. What are those in medicine doing to address the root cause of Blacks’ distrust in medicine in the first place?

By no means do we want to imply there is ignorance regarding the benefits of vaccination. If that message has been conveyed, our apologies, that was not the intent. In fact, minority communities are keenly aware of prior government sponsored healthcare atrocities that are partially responsible for the environment of mistrust that we find ourselves in today. We face challenges of credibility and trust with this vaccine as well as other issues in healthcare. These challenges are made more difficult by misinformation. Our intent is not to offend anyone but to implore individuals to seek out reputable sources of information. Those of us in medicine and public health are partnering with trusted community leaders to disseminate accurate information via podcasts, virtual town halls, social media, and radio broadcasts. Additionally, state and county committees are in the process of soliciting information from the community and key stakeholders on how more can be done to improve vaccine up take in minority communities. This very important work is ongoing.

7. When do you anticipate we will get to phase 4 of vaccine distribution? And when will we know if they will be safe for children under 16?

We are currently at a stage of scarce vaccine availability that will begin to improve in the coming weeks and months. It is anticipated that, by late spring into early summer, the vaccine will become much more widely available. The state of Ohio has not yet determined the next phases of the statewide vaccination campaign.

Clinical trials are currently underway to develop a safe and effective vaccine for children. Those clinical trials will likely take several months to complete.

8. Also, if this hasn't been addressed, could you please address the myth about fertility impacts of the vaccines?

The CDC has determined that vaccines may be administered to women who are pregnant and advise the pregnant women consult their doctors. Here is a link to details for pregnant women from the CDC.

9. The national goal is 100 million vaccines in 100 days. Does the Cuyahoga County Board of Health have a goal and are we meeting it?

The state of Ohio allocates vaccines on a weekly basis to more than 80 vaccine providers in Cuyahoga County. Providers do not know our allocations in advance. Consequently, our goal at Cuyahoga County Board of Health is to use our weekly allowances as soon as possible in order to reach as many eligible individuals as we can and want to assure that we provide equitable access across race, ethnicity, and income and other equity indicators across our health jurisdiction.

10. I’ve heard mixed messages about taking the vaccine as a person with severe allergies. How should those with allergies proceed, if at all?

CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced severe allergic reactions—also known as anaphylaxis—after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. As an example, an allergic reaction is considered severe when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine or EpiPen© or if they must go to the hospital.

If you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. If you had a severe allergic reaction after getting the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends that you should not get the second dose.

CDC has also learned of reports that some people have experienced non-severe allergic reactions within 4 hours after getting vaccinated (known as immediate allergic reactions), such as hives, swelling, and wheezing (respiratory distress).

If you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends that you should not get either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. If you had an immediate allergic reaction after getting the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get the second dose. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in allergies and immunology to provide more care or advice.

11. When will vaccines will be available to the general population/adults aged 18-55?

The exact timing of the availability of the vaccine to the general public is not clear at this time.

12. How are vaccines being tracked? Are there standards for ensuring a person receives only two vaccines and receives the same kind?

All vaccination data is entered into a state registry where the type of vaccine − as we well as first and second dose information − is entered and is accessible to all vaccine providers in the state.

13. As more people get vaccinated, I would be interested to hear discussions about what sorts of activities might be reasonable for someone who is vaccinated to re-engage in versus what should still be avoided until we are closer to a fully vaccinated population?

Cuyahoga County COVID cases have thankfully been dropping but remain three to four times higher than the CDC threshold for high transmission. Consequently, in the coming months, we must remain vigilant with masking, social distancing, isolating when sick, quarantining when exposed to people diagnosed with COVID-19, avoiding large gatherings, and working remotely where possible. All of these tried and true measures, in combination with vaccination, represent our comprehensive offense and defense approach to fighting this pandemic.

14. It's really tiring hearing the recap of where we are in the process. We know. We're glued to the info. What does March look like? No one is answering that in Ohio, yet other states are communicating to their citizens a wider picture. It's just incredibly hard to understand why it feels so different in Cuyahoga County.

More vaccines will clearly be available in March. This pandemic is the first of its kind in 100 years. Consequently, we can’t know exactly where we will stand in March, but anticipate that cases will continue to drop. We need to get vaccinated when we have the opportunity to combat the emergence of the variant strains and prevent another potential surge in cases.

15. Cuyahoga county is lacking compared to Franklin. We've had to help elderly from Medina and Cuyahoga county sign up at CVS in Bellevue, OH to actually receive the vaccine. Our hospitals simply have them registered and they just wait for a call.

Cuayhoga County has 1.2 million residents, of which 230,000 are age 65 and over. Consequently, it will take time, in the context of limited vaccine supply, to reach all interested and eligible seniors. There are over 80 locations in Cuyahoga County where vaccine can be accessed on a weekly basis as available. You can go to https://cuyahogacounty.us/vax to see all the locations.

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