About 36,000 county residents have tested positive for the virus, and 56,243 have been vaccinated, including 37,055 are age 60 and older, according to the Ohio Department of Health data on Tuesday. Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday he is opening up immunizations to people 50 years old and older this week.
Former Butler County Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Lerer said including the number of people who likely contracted the disease and didn’t know it and weren’t tested probably pushes the immunity number much higher.
“We’re probably getting close to a figure of around 50% of the county immune, either from natural immunity or acquired immunity from one or both shots of the vaccine,” Lerer said.
The county’s general health district and health departments in Hamilton and Middletown have been pre-registering people for the vaccine. The county health district website says it has put the registration on hold recently so it can work through a waiting list of around 29,500 people who are already preregistered. Hamilton has about 750 on a waiting list, and Middletown has about 4,500.
There is a state portal for getting vaccination appointments at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. Hamilton is still registering residents itself, and Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips said her department is as well, but it will be moving to state’s portal for appointments April 1.
Butler County Emergency Management Director Matt Haverkos said the ODH is working directly with 25 to 30 providers countywide who are registered to administer vaccines to determine how many doses each can use on a weekly basis. He said they have been able to vaccinate about 1,000 people a day at the clinic they have been running at the county fairgrounds a few times a week.
“They say how many can you take and how many are you distributing,” Haverkos said. “So it’s reallocated on a weekly basis to determine how it gets out the fastest and is most effective.”
The state also recently announced it will be opening about 15 mass vaccination sites, and the closest to Butler County will be at the Cintas Center at Xavier University. DeWine’s Press Secretary Dan Tierney told the Journal-News these are not designed to replace local vaccination efforts and should not impact the amount of supply coming locally because production the vaccines is ramping up.
“The local places are able to put them closer to where people live,” Tierney said. “The mass vaccination sites, you do a lot more vaccinations per day but people have to drive to centralized locations.”
The commissioners received $18.7 million in federal CARES funding last year and earmarked $6 million for a testing/vaccination program in December. They received five proposals to provide free widespread testing/immunization with “strike team” capability for hot spots. That plan remains on the back burner now.
“It’s just a safety net,” Commissioner Don Dixon said describing the plan. “All the different factors that are going into place makes this less likely to have to get into the $6 million, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t.”
County Administrator Judi Boyko said if it is determined the $6 million isn’t needed to help the vaccination effort, there are other programs they have identified that could use funding.
“The commissioners may want to consider reevaluating the small business relief program,” Boyko said. “There appears to be still demand and need, I get calls, not every day or all the time, but I get calls frequently enough that there may still be a need.”