PORTSMOUTH — Relative to other Ohio counties, Scioto has led the way in terms of population started on the coronavirus vaccines. Despite this progress, local health officials say a return to normal will take some time.
Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith detailed that progress so far during the city’s Board of Health meeting Wednesday evening. Workers in health care, EMT, developmental disabilities, and residents of congregate homes have all been vaccinated, he said. Now, attention goes to the elderly and those with severe or congenital or developmental disorders.
“We’re doing excellent,” said Smith during the Jan. 27 meeting. “Everybody’s seen Scioto County leading the way and a very big part of that is we have such a large hospital doing such a great job pushing out the vaccines.”
According to the Ohio Department of Health vaccine dashboard, updated daily, nearly 6,000 people, or 7.9% of the county has received the first of two doses. The pace in which the city and Scioto County Health Departments are receiving these vaccines, however, has been slower than expected which blurs future expectations.
Based on current trends, Smith said it could take upward of 20 months to get most of the population vaccinated. With many variables at play though, he feels that timeline will likely change.
This being in a “very slow phase,” where 1,000 doses per month are received, improvements will come soon as two new companies will bring new vaccinations. Having all of Scioto County vaccinated is unrealistic, he said but the goal is to have 80% inoculated and for it to be widely available this summer.
When that supply is in more abundant availability, Smith and Southern Ohio Medical Center Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. David Byers said the health departments and hospitals will be ready. Drive-thru vaccinations will take place at Shawnee State University and Valley High School and shots will be available at large hospital clinics and local pharmacies when that happens.
“We could, in this community, distribute infinitely more vaccines than what we are getting right now,” said Byers, where he feels they could do up to 10,000 vaccines a week and be done with the rollout in a few weeks. “It is purely a supply problem.”
Even with more vaccines, life’s normal return will only transpire with widespread acceptance by the public. For Smith that means educating and encouraging its safety and effectiveness.
“The vaccination prevents you from getting sick, it doesn’t prevent you from getting the virus and passing the virus,” he said. “Whoever decides to not get vaccinated can’t depend on everyone else to be vaccinated and protect them. All it means is they are the only ones who are going to get sick.”
While President Joe Biden said the country will be “well on our way to herd immunity” by summer during a Monday news conference, Byers does not project a normal summer locally.
Not enough people will be vaccinated by then and too few have said they will get it when their time comes for that to happen, he said.
“We do hope that the vaccines are going to mitigate disease and suffering,” he said. “But there is no reasonable way to think that we are going to be back doing life as we knew it 18 months ago this summer.”
Separately, encouraging news came from Christine Thomas, PCHD Director of Nursing, where cases have been on the lower end in the earlier parts of the new year. Originally seeing anywhere from 10-12 cases in the city jurisidiction, recently that has fallen to one to four each day.
“What was taking eight hours a day for someone to do all symptoms checks is slowly trickling down,” she added, where at one point the department performed checking symptoms for over 100 people daily.
Over the past two weeks, the county has added 319 cases for a new case per capita of 423.6 per 100,000 people. Last week’s measure was 606.8 per 100,000.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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