Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited Ohio University’s Heritage Hall on Monday to witness students receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and to tour the hall’s facilities.
Simar Kalkat, a sophomore studying finance, business analytics and economics; Graham Garee, a junior studying accounting; and Prestin Minter, a senior studying strategic communication, all received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the event.
DeWine spoke with the students while the vaccines were prepped. Kalkat told DeWine she was not nervous because she trusts OU and trusts the vaccine.
OU President Duane Nellis said DeWine has been working to get the vaccine available to college students across the state of Ohio.
“We're so pleased to have our governor of our great state of Ohio here, Gov. DeWine, and the first lady, Fran DeWine,” Nellis said. “We appreciate so much the commitment of the governor to provide this vaccine to our students.”
As of right now, about 32% of Athens County has been vaccinated, Jack Pepper, Athens City-County Health Department administrator, said. With that increase in vaccinations, DeWine said he plans to have all COVID-19 executive orders lifted in Ohio by July 4.
“Our way of getting back to normal is through the vaccine,” DeWine said. “It's our only way to get back, and with a third of Ohioans — actually 35% — vaccinated, we are certainly on our way.”
DeWine said the July 4 date is still realistic despite the recent increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Ohio.
“I'm an optimist, and I think we can do this,” DeWine said. “Ohioans have done well. Ohioans have continued to wear masks. Ohioans are getting vaccinated ... but we just have to keep doing it.”
DeWine said despite COVID-19 cases declining in older populations, such as those in nursing homes, there has been an increase in younger populations due to the lack of younger people getting vaccinated.
As of Monday, about 35% of Ohioians have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and about 22% has received both doses.
Nellis said he will be pushing students to receive the vaccine and testing during the Fall Semester when more classes will be in person.
“We are strongly encouraging students to be vaccinated and actually having some incentives for students to be vaccinated by fall when they will then be required to do regular testing,” Nellis said. “And those students that are not vaccinated will be put through a more rigorous testing regime.”
However, special assistant to the president for public health operations Gillian Ice said there have been many students interested in the vaccine.
“Our clinics have been well attended, not full, and we think some of that's because students have already got the vaccine,” Ice said. “But we certainly still have people signing up and still doing whatever we can to get them here.”
Pepper said the health department is continuing to receive about 840 doses of the vaccine a week, but DeWine said he has seen a recent decrease in demand for the vaccine.
“What's happened in the last week is that we're now seeing a slowing of the demand caused by the fact that already a third of the state has been vaccinated,” DeWine said. “So, a lot of people have already been vaccinated.”
Although many have already been vaccinated, DeWine acknowledged the reluctance some people have toward getting the vaccine.
“I think the biggest challenge that Ohio faces in regards to vaccination is really convincing people that this is their ticket out,” DeWine said. “This is the ticket out of the pandemic, and this is their ticket to freedom.”
Ashley Beach contributed to this report.