CLEVELAND, Ohio — Lorain County Public Health has a robust plan in place to vaccinate residents over the next few months, said Dave Covell, health commissioner for Lorain County Public Health.
It could move even faster if it had more doses, Covell said. “It’s like being at the starting line, waiting for the gun to go off,” he said.
Lorain County is the second Northeast Ohio health board to lay out vaccination plans. Cleveland announced its plan Thursday. Geauga and Summit counties are allowing people in phase 1A — health care workers, first responders and nursing home staff and residents — to fill out online forms to pre-register for a notification of when they can be immunized, though they haven’t released detailed plans of how the group will be vaccinated.
In roughly two weeks, Lorain County and the rest of the state will launch the second phase of its COVID-19 vaccine plan, which offers the shots to older Ohioans and school workers, Gov. Mike DeWine said this week.
About 2.2 million people fall into the state’s “1B” group, including roughly 1.6 million people ages 65 to 84.
Another group of adults younger than 65 will qualify, including 334,000 teachers and staff at K-12 schools, and 77,000 people with qualifying developmental or medical disorders.
Lorain County Public Health is creating pods, or designated locations where residents will go to be vaccinated. The pod system will allow health care workers to vaccinate up to 1,000 people per day, per pod, Covell said.
The health department can run up to eight pods per day, but the number open at any given time will fluctuate depending on the amount of vaccine available.
Pod locations include schools, the county fairgrounds and some drive-through-only sites in Lorain and Elyria. Retired physicians, nurses and volunteers will help organize and staff the pods, he said.
The Lorain County health department currently has a sign-up form on its website where people in Phase 1B can begin registering for vaccination. Those who sign up with a name and email address will be notified of the day and location of their vaccination in advance, Covell said.
When it’s time to vaccinate school workers, Lorain health workers plan to create pods in school districts with more than 800 employees, while smaller districts will be asked to join together at one pod, Covell said. A school might be asked to close for a day so that it can be used as vaccination pod.
From April to June, the general population should be able to get COVID-19 vaccinations in the pods, he said. Covell answered some common questions about next steps in the vaccination rollout:
Will people have to show proof of age?
Individuals will be asked to bring ID to the vaccination site, but “we won’t have bouncers at the door,” Covell said. “We’ll rest on their honor.”
Lorain County is distributing the Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots, given four weeks apart. How will people be notified about their second shot?
Everyone will receive a card telling them to return to the same pod on a certain day to get the second dose.
Will COVID-19 tests be available at the pods?
If you recovered from COVID-19, should you get the vaccine?
Yes, it will act as a booster.
People who have COVID-19 with symptoms should wait until they have completely recovered to get vaccinated. People with asymptomatic COVID-19 should wait out their 10-day isolation period before being vaccinated.
How much will the vaccine cost?
It is free, with or without insurance.
Meanwhile, medical workers continue to administer shots to the state’s “1A” vaccine group. In Lorain County, a small number of pods are being used to distribute the vaccine to people in phase 1A — including physicians and dentists who provide direct care to patients, and EMS workers — from now until April, Covell said.
So far, 6,000 people in the 1-A phase have signed up to be vaccinated in Lorain County, and 1,400 of them have received at least one shot, he said.
Lorain County could be vaccinating up to 40,000 people a week if it had more doses. But instead of being frustrated, Covell recognizes that the state is moving as fast as it can.
“Vaccine availability has been the issue,” he said. “It’s not under the control of the state how much they get.”