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The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Ohio

  • En español | Ohio is now administering COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna to health care workers and personnel involved in the care of COVID-19 patients, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, patients and staff at state psychiatric hospitals, people with intellectual disabilities and those with mental illness who live in group homes or centers and staff at those locations and EMS responders.  

  • Ohioans 65 and older are in the next priority group, which has been subdivided into a tiered system that prioritizes those 80 and older first, then those 75 and older, then those 70 and older, then those 65 and older. Vaccinations for this group will begin the week of Jan. 19. 

  • Check the state's online COVID-19 vaccination page or call its COVID-19 call center for more information: 833-427-5634.

  • Senior citizens with questions on the vaccination process are urged to contact the state Area Agencies on Aging at aging.ohio.gov or by calling 866-243-5678. 

  • Vaccine news is changing quickly. Check this guide for updates in days ahead. 

When can older adults get the vaccine?

Vaccines will start being made available to older Ohioans the week of Jan. 19.

Because initial supplies of the vaccines are limited, doses are being allocated and administered via a phased distribution plan, which is “a work in progress” and “continues to be fine-tuned,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said during a recent news conference.   

Fairfax, Virginia Health Care Workers Get Covid 19 Vaccine Shots
Health care workers were among the first to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Ohio.
The Washington Post/The Washington Post via Getty Im

The first phase, called Phase 1A, includes health care workers and personnel involved in the care of COVID-19 patients, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, patients and staff at state psychiatric hospitals, people with intellectual disabilities and those with mental illness who live in group homes or centers and staff at those locations, and EMS responders. The phase prioritizes critical populations, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Ohioans age 65 and older are in the next priority group, called Phase 1B. This group also includes people with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders that make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, as well as employees at schools that want to return to, or continue, in-person instruction. Given the size of this group – 2.2 million people – vaccinations will occur via a tiered system, beginning the week of Jan. 19, as follows:

  • The week of Jan. 19: Ohioans 80 years of age and older
  • The week of Jan. 25: Ohioans 75 years of age and older; those with severe congenital or developmental disorders
  • The week of Feb. 1: Ohioans 70 years of age and older; employees of K-12 schools that wish to remain or return to in-person or hybrid models
  • The week of Feb. 8: Ohioans 65 years of age and older

Vaccine providers are not expected to vaccinate everyone in each age group in one week, the Ohio Department of Health said. As new age groups are authorized to receive vaccinations, previous age groups will continue receiving shots. Administering shots to these populations is expected to take weeks given the limited doses available.

Ohio is still determining which priority groups will follow Phase 1B.

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines because the science shows that older people are at higher risk of death from the coronavirus.  

Where can I get a vaccine?  

Use the state's online vaccine locator tool to find a provider that has been allotted vaccines. The tool is searchable by zip code or county, but is not updated in real-time, the Department of Health warns. So you should consult local providers or your local department of health to determine up-to-date vaccine availability and to schedule an appointment.  

The hundreds of participating providers include hospitals, local health departments, medical centers and drug stores such as Kroger, Drug Mart and Giant Eagle. The list is subject to change as it is reviewed for accuracy, the Columbus Dispatch recently reported. 

How do I know when I can get a vaccine?

Follow updates about the vaccine’s availability for various groups on the Ohio Department of Health’s coronavirus vaccine page. You can also call the department at 833-427-5634 toll-free.

AARP recommends that you talk to your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19. 

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot.

The initial COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these vaccines, you’ll need a follow-up dose a few weeks later to be effectively immunized. 

“What you have is you get some degree, not optimal, but some degree of immunity a couple of weeks after the first dose,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in December. “That’s not optimal. After the second dose, you get optimal immunity anywhere from seven to 10 days after the second dose.”

You should receive a vaccination card or printout at the time of your first visit that reminds you of where and when you were first vaccinated, and which vaccination you received, according to the CDC. Ohio’s interim distribution plan says that providers will aim to schedule your second dose at your appointment for your first dose, or potentially even earlier. The state may send you a postcard or text message reminding you to get your second dose based off vaccination data providers are required to report.

The CDC has launched a web tool called v-safe that lets you sign up for text message reminders for your second vaccine appointment and report possible side effects.

How will nursing home and other long-term care residents get the vaccine? 

The federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to long-term care residents and staff. CVS is partnering with over 40,000 facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living communities and other types of long-term care facilities, to provide vaccines to up to 4 million residents and staff through the program, while Walgreens is partnering with roughly 35,000 facilities to provide vaccines to up to 3 million residents and staff. In Ohio, Absolute Pharmacy and Pharmscript are also taking part.

The state is very close to completing the administration of first doses in skilled nursing facilities, said DeWine on Jan. 14.

Do I have to pay for the vaccination? 

AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. But the CDC says vaccine providers may still charge a fee for giving someone a shot. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said the vaccine will be administered free of charge to Medicare beneficiaries, with no copays. Some health insurance companies have also announced that there won’t be out-of-pocket costs for policyholders.

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.

How long does immunity last after I get vaccinated? 

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like the flu shot.

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated? 

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-life conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer vaccine is effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who’s been vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others.

The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity, and it continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing. 

“At some point, some magical point, we don’t know that date, we will achieve the herd immunity,” DeWine said recently. “And at that point, life will get back to mostly normal. But we don’t want to make the mistake of pulling back, stopping wearing masks or anything else in the first few months. That would just be a horrible, horrible mistake.”

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren’t evident in the expedited development and review process.

This guide was originally published on Dec. 18. It was updated on Jan. 17 with new information from the Ohio Department of Health and the Office of Gov. Mike DeWine.

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