Dramatic drop in vaccine demand in one Ohio county leaves some health officials worried

Coronavirus in Ohio

SCIOTO COUNTY, OHIO (WOWK) — Now that the vaccination effort has been underway for several months, the early successes some counties in our region saw are beginning to hit a wall.

Some Scioto County officials are concerned about the fact they have more shots than arms to put them in.

The county initially had great success in pushing COVID-19 vaccines out—they even led the state in the percentage of the population vaccinated at times—however, now the numbers have gone the other way.

“For vaccinations started, Ohio has had 4.4 million people or 37.56% with at least one dose. Here in Scioto County, we’re at right under 31% so we’re lagging a little bit behind,” says Larry Mullins, the director of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency.

Mullins worries that disparity is growing greater with each passing week.

Frontline workers are already seeing this worrisome trend on the ground.

“Four weeks ago, we had well over 500 dose 1’s come in a week, which is what we want to see. If you compare that to last week, it was only about a hundred,” says Tracey Henderson, the director of nursing of the Scioto County Health Department.

“One day a week we were doing a drive thru, and at the most I think we did 70-80 people in a three-four hour period. Now, we’re basically lucky to fill 10 vaccine slots a day. We’re only offering vaccines once a week,” says Brett Davis, the owner of Morton’s Pharmacy in Portsmouth.

So why has this community seemingly had a change of heart? It is a question officials from Shawnee State University wanted to discover.

“We conducted an opinion survey, a poll on social media. Right now, we have about 125 who responded. We asked if you received the vaccine, [and] if not, can you tell us why? The majority of those who answered that question have really talked about concern over the safety of the vaccine,” says Elizabeth Blevins, who is the executive director for marketing and communications for Shawnee State University.

It’s an all too familiar theme.

“It has to be proven that it’s not going to create a health risk versus prevent a health risk, and I think right now people are afraid that it could cause more damage,” says Scottie Phipps, a resident of Scioto County.  

Now, health officials say they’re up against the clock:

“It’s a race of time. The more chance that the virus has to mutate and defeat the vaccine, that’s gonna spread the pandemic more,” Mullins says.

As it stands, around 25% of Scioto County has been fully vaccinated. People who still have concerns about the vaccines are urged to reach out to their primary care providers or pharmacists to learn more about the vaccine’s safety.

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