Butler County commissioners provide more money for vaccination clinics

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School employees continued to receive vaccines in Butler County at an event at Lakota West High School on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.

The Butler County commissioners transferred $100,000 in CARES Act funds to support vaccination clinics recently, but a $6 million testing and vaccine program contract they planned to award is on the back burner for now.

The commissioners approved transferring $100,000 to the county emergency management agency and health district to help pay for vaccination efforts that have been in progress since the shots became available. They have not awarded the $6 million testing/vaccination contract yet, because that program envisions mass vaccination and the supply hasn’t been available.

“You can gear up, you can get all the people ready, but if you don’t have the vaccine you’re not going to do much,” Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News. “I think until they get a handle on the supply everybody is just going to have to use what you get and we’re doing that. We’re using our allotment. We could do more but we can’t get anymore so we’re just like everybody else. We’re all in the same boat just sitting and waiting.”

The Butler County General District on Friday reported the county health district and its partners at about 25 other vaccination sites have administered about25,500 shots. The county has a total population of about 484,000 residents. The state health department website states Ohio is receiving around 140,000 doses weekly.

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

Butler County Emergency Management Agency Director Matt Haverkos said the county has been receiving and administering about 4,000 doses a week. He said this week was “monumental” in Ohio.

“We actually saw in the state of Ohio the number of vaccines go out to surpass the number of actual cases in the state of Ohio,” Haverkos said. “That should put a little wind in the sails that we are really knocking down these numbers.”

On Wednesday the state reported 908,096 people have received at least one vaccine dose, which eclipsed the 906,727 cumulative cases reported since the start of the pandemic. The county has had 33,104 confirmed cases since March.

The county must follow the tiered guidelines set out by Gov. Mike DeWine so they inoculated front-line health workers, firefighters and medics and nursing home residents. The vaccination of elderly residents has come in waves and school personnel started getting shots last week.

The commissioners approved seeking proposals for the $6 million program in December before vaccinations were available. They received five proposals to provide free widespread testing/immunization with “strike team” capability for hot spots. County Administrator Judi Boyko began negotiations with the top prospect but has not brought a recommendation to the commissioners yet.

On Tuesday the White House announced a new phase in the mass vaccination effort, sending a million doses of the vaccines directly to retail pharmacies, beginning to shift away from sending out doses for mass vaccinations. This is just another reason the commissioners want to wait before awarding the big contract.

“At this point there has not been identified a practical need to contract because I think right now, now they are talking about pharmacists doing the vaccines. Until there is a very clear path moving forward the commissioners aren’t going to contract just to contract.”

The county received $18.7 million in federal coronavirus relief funding and commissioners identified a number of programs to battle the pandemic, the testing/vaccine plan was one of the bigger cash allocations. Commissioner T.C. Rogers said they don’t need to spend all the money if things continue to change, but at least the of portion of mobile vaccinations is still very valid.

“We’re looking to see how much we’re going to need to serve the ones that can’t just get up and get in their car and go to a drug store or whatever,” Rogers said. “That’s the program we’re working on now. It’s still too early to tell.”

Haverkos, who was on the team that vetted the proposals, said as far as the full-blown plan “it is an enticing resource if we need it, right now there’s not enough doses to justify it and we’re not forecasting enough doses to justify it right now either.”

The $100,000 allotment of CARES funds will be used to help fund the vaccination clinics the three health departments and EMA are running. There are about six clinics going four-to-five days week throughout the county, according to Haverkos.

“We will be using some of the money to help us hire temporary staff to assist at the vaccine clinics,” Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer said. “This will help sustain the staffing necessary for successful and efficient vaccine clinics, as well as let most of our staff return to the important jobs they did in public health before vaccination clinics started.”

The commissioners have said they will continue to fund these efforts if more money is needed. Haverkos said they are also exploring other options through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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