COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio ranks among the worst states in getting its population vaccinated for COVID-19, according to data tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC’s data, 0.7% Ohio’s population has received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The state ranks 47th when comparing the same metric in all U.S. states and Washington, D.C.
The state that sits atop the rankings sits just across the Ohio River.
“Our purpose was to get vaccines in the arms of as many people as possible,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, a physician affiliated with West Virginia University who also serves as the state’s COVID Czar.
West Virginia has fully vaccinated 2.4% of its population, according to the CDC.
Marsh said unlike other states, including Ohio, West Virginia has not activated a federal vaccination program which relies on Walgeen’s and CVS pharmacies to deliver doses to nursing homes.
“About half of our pharmacies in our state were independently owned and operated,” Marsh said. “So, we created a network of relationships between pharmacies which handled the vaccine for us.”
As a result, the CDC reports that more than three-quarters of West Virginia’s available COVID-19 vaccine doses have been used. The same data shows that Ohio has used only half of its doses.
“We have doses, which are sitting in Kalamazoo, Michigan,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the Chief Medical Officer with the Ohio Department of Health.
“A large portion of what would show up in (the CDC’s) tracker are actually doses which have been earmarked for Ohio, that are not yet physically in Ohio, they are part of a commitment to delivering the vaccine through that (federal) program.”
Part of the initial concern that led to holding back doses, Vanderhoff said, was making sure people in nursing homes will be guaranteed a second dose of a vaccine. The doses in Michigan will go to nursing homes once they arrive in Ohio, he said.
“We also happen to have, for many historic reasons, a much higher nursing home occupancy per capita than most states,” Vanderhoff said.
While a short supply of vaccine doses impacts every U.S. territory and state, Vanderhoff said he is pleased with Ohio’s approach to vaccination.
“While there’s not enough, and we are pushing hard to get more, I think we can’t lose sight of the miracle that we have these vaccines and that they are getting into people’s arms,” Vanderhoff said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that the federal government agreed to release 77,000 of the doses that are sitting in Michigan to Ohio over the next two weeks. Those doses were not originally scheduled to be released until March.