Vaccination drive enters new phase in US and Britain

Chief nurse Sam Foster holds a vial of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Monday, at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England. Williams County Health Commissioner Jim Watkins said doses of the vaccine have been slow to reach the county.

COVID-19 claimed three more county residents over the long weekend as the vaccine continues to come in at a slow pace.

Williams County Health Commissioner Jim Watkins said Monday morning the three deaths were reported on Dec. 31 and included two females, ages 89 and 83, and a male age 61. They all lived in long-term care facilities.

Those three bring the total deaths in the county to 51 as of Monday.

In total, there have been 2,359 cases of COVID-19 in the county with 120 hospitalizations and 1,891 people presumed to have recovered from the disease.

Meanwhile, vaccines are coming in much slower than Watkins would like. He said they are really dependent on the federal government to get the vaccines out.

“We receive 100 doses each week, that’s what we’re getting. We would like to get more,” Watkins said.

The phased vaccine rollout is still in the Phase 1a, meaning they are vaccinating medical professionals, emergency workers and developmentally disabled people in group homes.

Health officials are using the vaccine doses as fast as they can get people signed up for it and while they would like to move on from Phase 1a, Watkins said it is slow going with the amount of vaccine they are getting.

Based on a conference call he was on with the governor’s office Monday morning, that is what is happening across the state.

“The vaccine is slow in getting out and they have difficulty finding out from the federal government how much we’re going to get any particular week,” Watkins said. “It makes it hard to plan when you don’t have any information. We are doing the best we can to try and get this out as quickly as possible.”

Vaccination numbers will need to be high, at least 75% of the community, he continued, to get the virus under control and get back to a life “we are more accustomed to.”

That will take time, especially as there are people even in the medical community who are hesitant or waiting to get vaccinated.

“We really need a high rate of vaccination to have some hope,” Watkins said. “The other thing that people need to understand is that even after vaccination, we still need them to follow all those social distancing practices, things of that nature, because it’s still possible that they potentially could spread the virus. We want to make sure we don’t do that.”

So far, the Williams County Health Department has received 200 doses of the vaccine and has set up time slots for people in the first phase to get vaccinated. Another 100 doses are expected to arrive this week.

According to the state, as of Monday there have been 162,942 people in the state who have received the first dose of the vaccine.

Of those, 221 are in Williams County, though Watkins questioned the accuracy of this information.

“What we’re running across is the data, I think, is not keeping up with what’s going on just yet,” he said. “You have different types of software trying to talk to each other. So, the accounting in my book is going to take some time to catch up with what’s really going on on the ground ... It’s just one of those things the accounting on that isn’t as accurate as people are believing it is just yet.”

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the extension of the state’s 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Watkins said he was unsure of the effects of the curfew, at least in Williams County, where 10 p.m. is considered late.

“We’re not an urban area where you have a lot of young people where 10 p.m. is early to go out ... There’s probably more effect in those areas,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of stores open at 10 o’clock in Williams County. When we think about that, we’re probably thinking about bar traffic, that’s probably who’s being affected. Certainly for them it is a burden.”

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