The Summit County Health Department is asking the residents to be patient with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has been sluggish so far.
Deputy Health Director Phil Bondurant says the department shares the frustration since it’s getting a limited amount of vaccines. And in the meantime, Gov. Spencer Cox has modified his priorities policy to vaccinate everyone in the state over the age of 70.
Bondurant told KPCW that the county is receiving only about 400 doses a week and expects that rate to continue through the end of March.
He said that around the start of the year, the governor’s office prioritized three groups to receive the vaccine before the elderly: non-hospital medical workers, first responders and teachers.
“We worked through those priority groups, given the small allotment of vaccine that we have. In the middle of that registration process, the governor made the decision to move the 70-plus population up into the higher-priority group, whereas before the communications we had received was they were a little bit further down that roster or that priority list,” Bondurant said. “And so that caught us a little bit by surprise. And what we’ve done is try to take the governor’s intent and make that a viable process here in Summit County.”
In order to register for vaccination, the CDC has required patients to go to an online system and provide an e-mail address.
Both those items can raise difficulties for over-70 residents. In response, he said, said the county has set up a Community Concerns Hotline at 435-333-0050.
They have up to a dozen staffers working on the Hotline, but they know that a lot of locals need help.
“The call center is working through that with individuals and trying to help them register,” Bondurant said. “We’re also trying to come up with different ideas because the CDC has promised a new system for the vaccine rollout for the general population. But we have yet to see that.”
Bondurant said they’re attempting to work through the priority groups, and also start to help out the senior population.
“And they’re taking those as they came in, and registering them 20 at a time to help get them going,” he said. “The conversation about reserving vaccines is right now, as the Governor’s direction is still to get through that non-hospital health care worker, essential workforce and the first responders. We’re trying to work through them as fast as we can, and then beginning to filter in some of that 70-plus population.”
Bondurant said the department thinks they can get through the priority groups by mid-February, and that it is hoping to finish vaccinating the general population by the end of June with the expected advent of some new vaccines.
“We’re anticipating that there will be an increase, maybe, in March, when the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines go to the FDA for approval, the fast-track approval process,” he said. “If they are approved, that will increase the number of vaccines that are made available to us, which then begins to make the idea of vaccination and mass vaccination, that we keep hearing about, more of a reality in a quicker time.”