Athens County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 vaccine administration locations as pharmacies and health centers receive more doses.
Currently, the Ohio Department of Health website shows 10 vaccine administration locations across Athens County. Some locations are beginning to receive weekly vaccine shipments for first doses.
Although the recent weather conditions delayed their shipments, Rachel Quivey, a pharmacist at Fruth Pharmacy, said they may be receiving 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine per week.
“That may change once the second does come in,” she said. “We may end up doing, 50 of those would be first dose or we may have to do all second dose. They haven’t given me any guidance for that yet.”
Shrivers Pharmacy in Athens is now receiving 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine each week, Ben Holter, pharmacist in charge, said. A hundred are being allocated toward first doses, while an additional 100 are being allocated as second doses for those patients who have already received their first dose through Shrivers. The other Shrivers location in Nelsonville is receiving 200 doses each week as well, Holter said.
“Our two Athens county locations (Athens and Nelsonville) are combining our doses and administering the doses at off site clinics on Wednesday and Thursday each week. We have been utilizing the Athens Community Center and the Christ Community Wesleyan Church as sites for these large clinics,” Holter said in an email.
The Athens City County Health Department, or ACCHD, has seen an increase in the rate at which it receive doses. James Gaskell, the Health Commissioner at ACCHD, said they now receive 200 doses each week.
Gaskell said the Health Department initially received the Moderna vaccine, but now receives mostly the Pfizer vaccine because they have the equipment to store it in colder temperatures. However, there is still the occasional need for the Moderna vaccine to follow up the first dose.
“Sometimes we’ll reach out to some of the pharmacies in order to get a couple doses of Moderna, so we have a working relationship with them and we talk with them frequently,” Gaskell said.
ACCHD has been collaborating with OhioHealth, a healthcare system based out of Columbus that owns O'Bleness Hospital in Athens. With the inclusion of OhioHealth’s 200 vaccines, the Health Department is able to administer a total of 400 doses every Thursday and Friday at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University. Currently, they have administered 3,336 first doses and 1,567 second doses.
As a part of Ohio’s phase 1B, which indicates that the vaccine still has limited availability, Athens residents 65 and older who have signed up with the Health Department to indicate interest in receiving the vaccine will receive a call to schedule a vaccination time.
“That allows us to not overbook our clinic so that if we have 400 doses we call 400 people … and of course there’s been no opportunities or times when we could be underbooked because we have thousands of people on our interest list, waiting for a call from us to get vaccinated,” Gaskell said.
Gaskell said the Heritage College is the ideal facility for administering the vaccine due to the large amount of space to accommodate those scheduled to be vaccinated. Around 30 to 35 people can be seated in a waiting room, Gaskell said, to be monitored for 15 minutes for any signs of allergic reactions.
Gaskell believes this facility will be used up until the summer, when he said there could be more drive-thru clinics. Additionally, ACCHD has considered the possibility of holding clinics on Saturdays, although Gaskell said they do not have enough doses to add that date yet.
“If we start getting larger allotments of vaccine, we’ll certainly move to some Saturday clinics,” Gaskell said.
Gaskell suggests that a growing vaccination program will contribute to the well-being of those in Athens County.
“If we vaccinate enough people and then develop herd immunity, which will require possibly as much as 70% of our population vaccinated, this pandemic will gradually disappear,” Gaskell said.