First shots given days after Kroger and Giant Eagle introduced as vaccine providers

NBC4 Investigates

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — This week brought with it a new phase in Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but when Phase 1B was set to start Monday, NBC4 Investigates discovered that vaccine providers in the private sector were not prepared to start giving injections that day.

Beginning Monday, Ohioans ages 80 and up qualified to get a vaccine. Kroger and Giant Eagle stores were also introduced as vaccine providers that day.

No one in the Columbus area received a vaccine Monday or Tuesday from either of those providers.

A spokesperson for Kroger said Monday that shipments hadn’t yet arrived, and a Giant Eagle representative said that day that the chain’s vaccination plan was still being finalized.

The plan was finalized Tuesday, and the first shots were given Thursday morning.

John Scott and his wife had the first two appointments at the Market District Giant Eagle on 3rd Ave.

“It would just be nice to feel comfortable to go out to eat someplace, go to church,” Scott said.

Scott said he and his wife regularly fill prescriptions at Giant Eagle’s pharmacy, so the pharmacist called him to schedule appointments when the vaccine became available.

“We’re excited. this day is historic,” said Vic Vercammen, Giant Eagle’s Chief Pandemic Officer. “All in all, a gradual start, but an exciting day and an exciting journey.”

NBC4 Investigates asked Vercammen why vaccination plans were not finalized until the day after the start of Phase 1B.

“I could see how some people may perceive it is confusion,” Vercammen said. “Our goal was to have the appointment tool live shortly before our vaccine supply was due to arrive. We wanted to eliminate the risk of vaccine not arriving.”

Vercammen said the company found out last week that its stores would receive vaccine shipments. Amy McCormick, a spokesperson for Kroger, said the same thing, adding that individual stores did not find out that shipments were on the way until Monday.

The first Kroger locations to receive a shipment of vaccine began administering doses Wednesday, while the remaining locations received their first shipment Wednesday and began vaccinations Thursday morning.

Melanie Amato, the press secretary for the Ohio Department of Health, said it’s difficult to provide notice to vaccine providers.

“This is done with short notice due to the fact that we are not aware of how much vaccine is coming to Ohio from the federal government per week,” Amato wrote in an email to NBC4 Investigates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio received 557,200 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine this week. Of that, McCormick said Kroger received 4,700 to distribute statewide and Vercammen said Giant Eagle received 10,000.

Starting Jan. 25, Ohioans ages 75 and up will qualify to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We all wish this rollout could be faster. We all wish more vaccine could be available right now,” Vercammen said.

During a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine said he expects next week’s vaccine allocation to be about the same as this week’s.

He said he spoke with President Joe Biden’s administration Thursday morning. “We need more vaccine,” the governor said he told officials on the call.

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