Several weeks into the 2021-22 school year, about 22% of eligible 12- to 18-year-olds in Williams County are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to figures from the Williams County Combined Health District.

Of the approximately 2,834 residents ages 12-18 in Williams County, 746 have received their first dose of the vaccine (28.34%), while 616 (21.73%) are fully vaccinated as of Sept. 7, said Victoria Smith, director of health education and preparedness for the WCCHD.

The local rates lag far behind the state averages.

As of Wednesday, 422,271 Ohioans age 12-18 have started the vaccination process, representing 40.5% of that age group, Ohio Department of Health spokesperson Alecia Shoults said.

Williams County vaccination rates for ages 12 and older also lag behind the state averages. About 38% of all county residents have been fully vaccinated, and 40% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

ODH statewide figures show more than 6 million Ohioans ages 12 and up have started the COVID-19 vaccination process, or about 60% of the population currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

That’s a good sign, Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff said.

“This is an important milestone because as more Ohioans gain robust immunity through vaccination, we reduce the opportunities for this virus to spread, mutate and inflict serious harm — and we get closer to the day when this virus can no longer upend our lives.

“By highlighting vaccination rates among those 12 and older, we are reinforcing the importance of keeping kids in school,” Vanderhoff said.

The rest of Williams County by age group and percentage of those fully vaccinated are (Williams County, state):

For ages 20-29 (21.41%, 40.49%); 30-39 (26.28%, 47.66%); 40-49 (36.44%, 53.98%); 50-59 (45.75%, 61.88%); 60-64 (63.74%, 71.57%); 65-69 (76.55%, 79.40%); 70-74 (78.48%, 84.05%); 75-79 (77.63%, 80%); and 80-plus (79.80%, 77.14%).

All age groups are vaccinated at a lower rate in Williams County than the state average except the county’s 80-plus population.

“Our older population has taken the lead in Williams County’s vaccination efforts, but our younger population still needs protection as cases are increasing from the Delta variant. The percent vaccinated below the age of 60 in Williams County is much lower than Ohio’s average and this puts our young people at greater risk,” Smith said.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use in people age 16 and older in mid-December (though most states restricted access for elderly and sicker residents through early 2021). On May 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized its use for children 12-15.

“Hopefully, this approval will increase our community’s confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Williams County Health Department would like to encourage younger residents (age 12-plus) to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those ages 12-15 can still be safely vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine under the emergency use authorization,” Smith said.

“As the school year starts and Williams County residents gather indoors this fall, COVID-19 has a greater opportunity to spread if precautions like getting a vaccine or wearing a mask are not taken,” Smith said.

The WCCHD offers walk-in clinics at its Montpelier office at 310 Lincoln Ave., Montpelier. Walk-in appointments are available during clinic hours. Pfizer (for ages 12-plus) and Johnson & Johnson (for ages 18-plus) vaccines are available Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For an appointment, log onto bit.ly/WCVaccine or call 419-485-3141.

At-home COVID-19 vaccinations are available for those who are homebound due to mobility issues and cannot travel to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Call 419-485-3141 to set an appointment.

Smith said the Williams County Health Department recommends parents and those who have questions about COVID-19 vaccines to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated.

“COVID-19 vaccines offer the best protection against COVID-19,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, one death from COVID-19 was reported by the WCCHD for the one-week period between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7. A total of 135 cases were reported for that same time period, with four people hospitalized, Smith reported in her weekly Community Talking Points update.

The county is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases and currently ranks in the top half of the state — 33rd of 88 counties — for number of incidences of COVID per capita. The county, like all 88 Ohio counties, is rated at Red, or High level for incidences of the virus by the state health department.

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