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ACCHD sees small increase in student COVID-19 vaccinations due to university mandate

Athens City-County Health Department, or ACCHD, has seen a slight rise in COVID-19 vaccination rates for students after Ohio University announced its vaccine requirement along with the nationwide approval of booster shots for certain groups. 

Since January, ACCHD has run intermittent clinics in partnership with OU out of Heritage Hall, Ruth Dudding, director of community health and engagement at the health department, said. Dudding said ACCHD is doing weekly clinics at Heritage Hall again because of the university’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's, or CDC’s, approval of booster shots. She said the number of people showing up to the clinics is varied. 

James Gaskell, ACCHD health commissioner, said the health department typically does 70 to 100 vaccinations at its weekly clinics in Heritage Hall. Gaskell said it primarily sees students and is allowing walk-ins. 

It also does COVID-19 vaccinations at the health department Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and sees around 30 to 40 people on those days. He said since OU announced the vaccine mandate, ACCHD has seen a little increase in student vaccinations.

“We haven’t seen tons of students yet, but there are definitely students coming,” Dudding said.

Dudding described student turnout as “not a rush,” and ACCHD anticipates seeing more students as OU’s Nov. 15 vaccine deadline nears.

Gaskell believes part of why the health department has not seen many students is because most of them are already vaccinated. As of Oct. 1, OU reported 79.9% of students living on-campus are vaccinated, and 69.8% of those living off-campus are vaccinated.

“Since you all live in close proximity to each other … you probably need an 80% immunization rate in order to provide herd immunity,” Gaskell said.

In general, ACCHD is doing fewer vaccinations than at the start of the pandemic. Dudding said it was doing up to 800 or 1,000 per clinic around January.

“Most people who really, really wanted to get vaccinated have been vaccinated,” Dudding said. “We’re back here at Heritage Hall because there’s a little boost in how many people want to get vaccinated with the booster becoming available (and) with the university requiring the vaccine.” 

Crystal Jones, a public health nurse at the health department, said another part of the reason ACCHD is doing fewer vaccines is that more health care providers have the vaccine now than when the pandemic started. 

On Sept. 24, the CDC released a statement saying people 65 years old or over and those 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions should get a third Pfizer shot. 

ACCHD began giving booster shots to anyone who met the CDC’s new recommendations the week after the announcement. Jones reported it gave out 220 booster shots at the Oct. 1 clinic.

Of the recipients, Harold Watkins, a retired man, said he feels a lot safer now that he has the third shot.

“They’re really efficient here,” Watkins said. “This is our third shot here, and they really stepped up to the plate and did a good job.” 


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