Slow distribution, resistance from nursing home staff hurting COVID vaccine rollout

National-chain pharmacies, such as Walgreen’s and CVS, have been responsible for getting the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to nursing homes since the rollout began in mid-December. Now a majority of the staff in these facilities has not taken the vaccine when offered says Gov. Mike DeWine. Photo by Patrick Keck.

SCIOTO — COVID vaccines have been administered in Ohio for nearly a month and there is still some public uncertainty regarding its safety. That hesitation has seeped into nursing homes, where the virus spreads and is particularly lethal.

In contrast to nursing home residents, which Gov. Mike DeWine projected that roughly 80% had accepted the vaccine when offered, only 40% of nursing home staff have taken the vaccine when the opportunity presented itself.

“It is a life-saver,” said DeWine of the vaccines during a Dec. 30 press conference. “We will never know of those people who get the vaccine whose lives have been saved, but we do know that many lives will be saved.”

National-chain pharmacies, such as Walgreen’s and CVS, have been responsible for getting the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to nursing homes since the rollout began in mid-December. DeWine said the pharmacies scheduled three stops at nursing homes throughout the course of a few weeks where residents and staff have the chance to be inoculated.

If vaccines are turned down on the second stop, where some may receive their second and final shot, the availability down the line is unknown.

“If you pass it up, there is no guarantee when you’re going to have the opportunity to do that again,” he said, urging although not requiring the employees to take the vaccine.

The virus has been particularly deadly in nursing homes, the Ohio Department of Health reporting 4,690 long-term facility deaths as of Jan. 6. Locally, 14 of the 55 deaths and 720 of the 4,606 cases reported by Wednesday came from these facilities.

As the numbers stood Monday afternoon, 4,941 cases and 64 deaths have been recorded. Since the Scioto and Portsmouth City Health Departments documented the first COVID death on July 28, more than 4,790 cases have been added.

Vaccinations have reached more than 3,100 county residents or 4.1% of the population, above the state portion of 2.6% as of Jan. 11. That progress however could be affected by much smaller shipments of the vaccines said Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Jerod Walker.

“Currently we are only receiving about 20% of the doses that we had anticipated,” he said in a Jan. 8 press release from the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency. “When our shipments of does increase, we will be able to complete Phase 1-A and move into Phase 1-B, which includes older individuals.”

The issue throughout the state is that many of these vaccines, even if shipped, comes down to its administration. According to CDC data, 751, 250 vaccines have been distributed in Ohio. ODH reports that just under 305,000 or 41% of those shots have been administered.

“We can’t control how fast the vaccine comes to Ohio, but we can control how fast we get it out,” DeWine tweeted. “There is a moral imperative to get the vaccine out just as soon as we can.”

Considering Phase 1-B focuses on the age 65 and older population, the need for them to and their care-givers is seen in the numbers. Of the 66 deaths reported by SCHD and PCHD, nine have been under the age of 65 and only two have been under the age of 60. The youngest death, a 37-year-old woman, happened on Dec. 21.

The Portsmouth Daily Times is running a survey with one primary question: Will you take the Covid vaccine? Those interested in providing an answer can check our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Local health departments, hospitals, and City Council have expressed on multiple occasions the safety of the vaccine, which is believed to be the best way for the area to move past the pandemic.

The poll closes Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved