COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Thousands of school employees in Franklin and Delaware counties are getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, just as Ohioans aged 70-74 become eligible to sign up for their first dose. It has created a surge in demand for the vaccine, which was already in short supply.
Seniors who now feel left behind in Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout shared their frustration with NBC4 investigates.
One of them, Kathy LaSota, wanted to make clear that she does not feel more deserving of a vaccine than anyone working in a school.
“I was an educator for 40 years. My whole career was centered around public education in Ohio. I have total respect for educators and staff at school buildings. I want them to be safe, I want them to get vaccinated,” LaSota said.
LaSota, 70, and her husband, 71, qualified Monday under Ohio’s vaccination plan to make an appointment in Delaware County, where they live.
“We were really excited about the February 1st timeframe for getting our vaccines. We got on the computer at 12:01 a.m., and our first available date for a an appointment was March 22nd,” LaSota said. “My reaction to that was extreme disappointment and frustration, because that would shove us then almost to the general population timeframe — or at least for the 65-and-above group. And who knows by then, you know, who would be ahead of us?”
Adding to LaSota’s concerns was an email she received Jan. 28 from OhioHealth.
“This week, the state of Ohio announced they will direct a significant portion of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine supply to K–12 schools, in an effort to support the safe operation of our community’s schools,” the email to patients read. “We support this decision, but as a result, we’ll receive fewer doses than we planned to provide in the coming weeks.”
OhioHealth spokesperson Mark Hopkins said the health system had to cancel appointments because it received fewer doses than expected.
“We ensure that all patients who were cancelled will have the opportunity to reschedule a vaccine with us as soon as more vaccines become available,” Hopkins said in a statement to NBC4 Investigates. “We’re eager to vaccinate as many Ohioans as possible so we actively work each week to adjust our vaccine appointments based on supply and other requirements, such as age.”
Following his statement Wednesday evening, Hopkins said roughly 1,400 appointments were affected. He said OhioHealth had just been informed by state health officials that the health system would receive enough doses for the week of February 8 to reschedule those appointments.
Hopkins was not immediately aware of how many appointments were cancelled.
“Our age group has been kind of shoved aside,” LaSota said. “And I guess it’s frustrating that that hasn’t even been publicly acknowledged.”
Ohio’s vaccine supply appears on track to increase in February. According to the CDC’s vaccine tracker, 96,600 doses of Moderna’s vaccine were allocated to Ohio the first week of February, up from 73,200 the last week of January. Next week’s allocation will grow to 105,600.
The increase in doses comes as Kroger begins a new partnership with the federal government.
“We’re receiving close to 70,000 doses the first week, and then we’re expecting about 150% more doses the following week,” said Amy McCormick, a spokesperson for Kroger.
Kroger’s online health portal does not schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccines more than one week in advance, McCormick said, because the company is not informed about how many doses it’s receiving until shortly before they arrive.
McCormick said starting Monday, Feb. 8, the companies partnering with the federal government will be able to order doses. She expects the orders to increase as more supply becomes available.
Melanie Amato, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, said the state has and will continue to set aside roughly 100,000 vaccine doses each week for seniors, out of the roughly 170,000 the state receives.
Amato said supply continues to be an issue as more people become eligible.