Low supply of COVID-19 vaccines leaves essential workers waiting


Photo provided by Miami University

Teachers at colleges, universities and daycare facilities such as the Child Development Center on Miami University’s Western Campus, seen here, are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines the way K-12 teachers are under Ohio’s phase 1B rollout plan.

By Kayla Kamil

As Ohio’s vaccine rollout plan continues to expand, some groups of essential workers are still wondering when they’ll be receiving the shots. 

The Butler County General Health District said in a statement last week that the district’s supply of vaccines is much lower than anticipated. 

The Ohio Department of Health has introduced a phased rollout plan prioritizing immunizations of at-risk populations and frontline healthcare workers while supplies of the vaccine are low. As the available supply increases, more Ohioans will have the option to get the vaccine. 

Phase 1A of the state’s rollout plan is already underway, which includes healthcare workers and residents and staff in assisted living and nursing care facilities. More than half of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio have been living in nursing or assisted living facilities, according to state health officials. 

As of Jan. 8, the county health district has distributed nearly 98% of the 1,100 doses of vaccine it has received, mainly to frontline workers and residents and staff at assisted living and nursing home facilities. 

Data released Jan. 19 by the Ohio Department of Health shows the post-holiday wave of COVID-19 beginning to subside, with daily reported cases and deaths in the state slowly trending downward after peaking during the start of the new year. 

Butler County currently ranks as the seventh highest county in Ohio by cases, with nearly 30,000 cases recorded since the onset of the pandemic early last year. There have been more than 2,000 new cases in Butler County in the last two weeks, with just over 100 of those being reported in Oxford. Nationally, the virus has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States since the pandemic began in early 2020.

The COVID-19 virus has now killed more than 400,000 people in the United States. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Phase 1B of the state’s immunization plan started out on Jan. 18, with Ohioans age 80 and above who choose to receive the shots, and will continue next Monday, Jan. 25, with adults age 75 and above and those with developmental and intellectual disabilities in addition to other severe health conditions. 

Starting Feb. 1, Ohioans age 70 and up will be eligible to be vaccinated, along with teachers and employees at K-12 schools that are currently planning to return to some form of in-person education by March 1. 

Next will be adults 65 years old and older on Feb. 8, and phase 1B will conclude with adults suffering from severe congenital and developmental disabilities starting Feb. 15. 

“We are working directly with schools to determine what the vaccination of school personnel looks like locally. School districts are choosing either a retail pharmacy partner, secured by the state, or an existing local partnership to administer the vaccines,” Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted Tuesday (@GovMikeDeWine). 

“Administration of vaccines will happen through the school-provider partnership and begin the week of February 1st for the first dose and continue over the next month. We will share more details next week.” 

However, phase 1B doesn’t include those adults under age 65 involved in education past high school, including professors and faculty at all state and community colleges and universities. 

It also doesn’t include teachers and staff at daycare or preschool learning centers, who oftentimes can’t teach students in a virtual classroom and whose students are too young to wear masks. 

Lauren Kolks, program director at the Miami University Child Development Center, has yet to hear when her staff will be eligible to receive the vaccine. 

“Unfortunately, we haven’t been contacted and we won’t be… for this round of vaccine distribution,” Kolks said. 

The center is one of five Mini Universities in the local area that offers early childhood development classes on larger university campuses. 

The Western Campus child development center location currently enrolls about 60 students, ranging from infants to pre-k, who are not required to wear masks to attend daycare and preschool programs. 

“We’re not sure when we’ll be included… we’re hopeful we’ll be included shortly after [the upcoming phase,]” Kolks said. 

The Ohio Department of Health is now scheduling appointments for those groups in phase 1B, including adults over the age of 65 and those with congenital and developmental disabilities. A full list of those who qualify can be found on conoranvirus.ohio.gov.

Those who qualify to receive a vaccine under phase 1B can schedule an appointment through any provider listed on vaccine.coronavirus.ohio.gov. In Oxford, those eligible can schedule an appointment at Kroger.