PORTSMOUTH — City residents, about 400 of them, went through a drive-thru Thursday with varying reasons but were all there for one thing: the coronavirus vaccine.
Between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., cars turned off Washington Street and onto sixth Street where they were greeted by firefighters of the Portsmouth Fire Department. After ensuring their registration status, shots were received and then drivers pulled through to the front before given the all-clear sign.
After receiving his first dose, John McNutt told the Portsmouth Daily Times he felt like he was doing what is best for both himself and the community.
“I want to live,” he said, explaining why he chose to take the vaccine. “Really though, it’s about protecting others and us hopefully taking care of this spread of disease.”
Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith said Monday that Thursday’s record-breaking event was made possible due to a double shipment of vaccines, as last week’s weather caused office closures and delays. Supply, however still remains an issue for health departments across the state.
“Our biggest problem is not the weather, our biggest problem has been there is still not enough supply,” he said in a Tuesday article.
Earlier this week, PCHD introduced a self-scheduling online system for city residents aged 65 and over and those who have qualifying medical conditions to make appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination. Seeing its success, Interim Administrator Belinda Leslie said the department will continue using this system for the weeks to come.
PCHD is now entering a transition phase where its focus will shift to having all first dose clinics on Thursdays, including the upcoming March 4, where she said it’s unknown how long these events will be based on the number of vaccines it receives.
“If they go on and select a spot, they’re in there. It’s going to make it a lot easier and more accessible to people,” she said Thursday, PCHD’s hotline still available for those without internet access.
Leslie said the scheduler will cut down on the high number of calls she and the department have had to make. On Monday, she said she made 203 calls and only scheduled 20 people.
“In the beginning, everybody wanted to get on a list,” Leslie said, many scheduling multiple appointments through both the Portsmouth and Scioto County Health Departments. “That wasn’t the best system, but that’s how we did it. Now we’re improving.”
Among the leading counties in terms of the population vaccinated, more than 10,000 people in Scioto have received the first of two doses as of Feb. 25. The target focus remains the 65 and older community, where nearly 6,000 and less than half of that population have received at least one dose.
A challenge perhaps waiting down the line for health departments is the acceptance of the vaccine for others in the Appalachian region. Researchers from Ohio University found in a January survey that 52% of respondents living in the region would be willing to take the vaccine, down from 63% of suburban residents.
“As Ohioans struggle to get past this pandemic, it’s very important for us to understand what factors are leading people to resist behaviors that will help, such as wearing masks and getting a vaccine,” said Kenneth Johnson, Ohio University chief medical affairs officer and executive dean of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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