Butler County closer to awarding contract for $6 million COVID-19 vaccine program

Butler County is getting ready to launch a $6 million coronavirus testing/vaccine program, and officials hope it will eventually allow widespread immunization and “strike team” capability for hot spots.

County Administrator Judi Boyko said she has started negotiations with The Health Collaborative after it was chosen by the team assembled to vet five proposals for operating the program. THC is a consortium of regional health providers like UC Health (which includes West Chester Hospital) and Children’s Hospital.

Primary Health Solutions’ proposal received the second-most votes, and Boyko could move down the list if a deal is not made with THC. The other contenders were Premier Health Partners, Shipcom Wireless and Visit Healthcare.

The commissioners committed $6 million of the $18.7 million the county received in CARES Act funding to the testing and vaccination effort. The county must follow state guidelines for rolling out vaccines, and first responders and front-line workers were among the first. Starting Monday, people 80 and older can receive the vaccine. Boyko said about 70,000 (18%) of the county’s 383,000 residents are 65 and older.

The vaccines will be available at Kroger stores next week, in addition to pharmacies and other health care providers.

Boyko said coronavirus testing and vaccinations are evolving so rapidly the main focus of the program has shifted away from testing — although that is still part of the plan — to vaccinations.

ExploreButler County receives five proposals for $6M testing, vaccine program: What comes next?

“I think the benefit of this provider, which right now is The Health Collaborative, is how can we utilize their systems already in place, their resources already in place and their infrastructure already in place?” Boyko said.

Butler County Emergency Management Director Matt Haverkos, who was part of the vetting team, agreed.

“Vaccination is Priority 1 so any vaccines the feds or the state are willing to send into Butler County we’re standing at the ready to push out,” Haverkos said. “This program is going to help better all of the public health system in the county analyze what’s out there, what’s needed and what’s available on one side and on the other side provide additional strike team capability.”

He said THC demonstrated its ability to handle widescale public health initiatives when it operated Hamilton County’s testing program earlier in the pandemic. In its proposal, THC said it conducted 29,596 tests at more than 420 scheduled or strike team events at 247 locations. in four months.

The runner up, Primary Health Solutions, has a host of healthcare locations throughout Butler County and the Dayton area. In its proposal, it estimates it could administer 500 COVID tests and 1,000 shots per week.

The proposal request said providers needed to provide a unit price for the tests and vaccines and they are not allowed to charge residents for office visits when they receive the medical procedures. The vaccines are free according to Haverkos, but everything else involved in the program, from communicating with the public to administering the tests/vaccines, is figured into the unit pricing.

The THC price was $290 per test or shot, which would take care of 20,689 people. The cost for Primary Health Solutions was $300 or $350 depending on the type of test and $150 per dose of the vaccine.

Boyko said she hopes to have a recommendation for the commissioners very soon.

“Of course the goal is to be as expeditious as possible to get a contract for the commissioners to approve,” Boyko said. “But this is a fairly large encompassing, highly compensated contract. The county needs to ensure that it’s doing it’s due diligence in drafting a scope of the contract that addresses all of the needs and ensures the board of commissioners’ expectations will be met.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said the primary goal of the new program should be to organize and execute large vaccination clinics throughout the county with the new provider, in partnership with the health district and the EMA to direct traffic.

She said Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer will be asking the commissioners for money to pave the parking lot at the fairgrounds so that giant location can be a more workable site for a large clinic. Haverkos is working on a proposal seeking funds to be part of the program. She said the Visitors Bureau would also be a good partner to market large-scale vaccination events.

“It’s still going to be a multiple-prong initiative,” she said. “We’re ready.”

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