COVID vaccines can help protect against serious illness or death from the virus, said DeWine on Thursday during a press conference with Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.
The state is seeing upticks in ICU admissions and deaths related to COVID-19, Vanderhoff said. As of Thursday, 12 new ICU admissions were reported, up from the three-week average of 11, and there were also 33 new COVID deaths reported, up from the three-week average of 27, according to ODH data.
The state reported 255 new hospitalizations, down from the three-week average of 275 hospitalizations. ODH also reported 7,721 new cases, down from the three-week average of 8,545, though case numbers could be skewed due to at-home testing.
“We’re of course grateful that these increases haven’t approached the levels of past years, but that’s likely due in no small part to the hybrid immunity that many of us have developed as a result of vaccination in combination with past COVID infections,” Vanderhoff said. “That said, our recent increase in cases and hospitalizations really just reaffirms the importance of staying up to date with vaccinations. Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug administration approved the use of a new COVID-19 vaccine designed to target some of the more recent omicron variants that have driven cases right here in Ohio.”
Anyone six months or older is recommended to get a new COVID shot if they have not had a COVID shot in the past two months, he said. Children between the ages of six months and four years old, along with people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, may be eligible to get additional doses and should consult a health provider.
Anyone 6 months or older also is recommended to get the flu shot, Vanderhoff said. Infants, pregnant women, and people 65 and older also may be eligible for one of the recent RSV shots that have been recommended for those groups. Some local health departments and other providers are expected to have RSV shots available for infants. Adults should consult a health provider to see whether they need an RSV shot.
“The flu and RSV seasons do not look like they’ve started in earnest yet in Ohio, but we know that they’re both just around the corner,” Vanderhoff said.
Distribution of the COVID vaccines also is moving from a government distribution model to a commercial distribution model.
“Following the end of the federal public health emergency in May, providers are ordering that vaccine directly from the manufacturer just as they do other vaccines, rather than through federal and state authorities,” Vanderhoff said. The shots should be covered by most insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid.
Eligible children, including those who are uninsured, can receive shots through the federal Vaccines for Children program. For uninsured adults, the CDC has created the Bridge Access Program, which will be in effect through the end of 2024. As part of that program, the CDC has contracted with CVS, Walgreens, and eTrue North pharmacies to allow them to continue offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to the uninsured.
DeWine did not have any plans to implement mask mandates again, he said. Vanderhoff said the current guidance for wearing a face covering is if you test positive for COVID and have to go out in the public.
A federal government shutdown should not impact the distribution of the vaccines, Vanderhoff said. Funding for the Bridge Access Program has already been allocated.