COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The next group of Ohioans are beginning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Tuesday, the Ohio State Schottenstein Center opened its doors to help distribute doses to individuals qualifying under Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine rollout plan.
“It’s wonderful that we now have this vaccine. I can’t tell you how excited I am just to be here,” said Helen Formet.
The 100-year-old former Ohio State employee and avid Buckeye fan was the first Phase 1B patient to receive the vaccine through the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center (OSUMC) Tuesday.
Formet, who lives alone and values her independence, has stopped many of her favorite social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s stopped her from going to the library, it’s stopped her from playing bridge, it’s stopped her from getting large groups together like we do for football games and family gatherings,” explained Formet’s son David Brehm.
Brehm visits his mother several times a week, though the encounters are typically masked and socially distant. He said the vaccine is a step toward peace of mind.
“The worry of her getting COVID and knowing it could be deadly to someone in her age group — it’s been a heavy load. And I’m just so relieved that she’s getting this first dose of vaccine,” Brehm said.
Tuesday began the first tier of the Phase 1B vaccine rollout. Adults over the age of 80 are eligible for the shot during the first week. Each following week expands the age group by 5 years.
“It makes a lot of sense for the state to start overall with people in the over 65 category, but to have a gradation where we can take our most, most vulnerable first in line makes a lot of sense,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, the chief clinical officer at OSUMC.
Dr. Thomas helped the health system develop its vaccine distribution plan. Early in the planning stages, the medical center began talking with the athletic department to find space for mass public vaccinations. The groups landed on the Schottenstein Center as an ideal facility already accustomed to hosting large events.
“To dedicate this much space in their facility while they still have ongoing operations for hockey and basketball and other things, it’s just been a terrific partnership,” Dr. Thomas said.
OSUMC will utilize event staff, such as parking attendants and ushers, to control the flow of patients. The facility can accommodate 150 vaccination stations. Organizers estimate it will take 30-40 minutes for each person to check-in, receive the shot and sit for a brief observation period.
The vaccinations are by appointment only and will be limited by supply. Dr. Thomas explained the distribution will start more slowly than many would like to see, but he anticipates it will ramp up once other versions of the vaccine are approved for release.
“I think anyone who wants to be vaccinated should have the opportunity in the coming weeks to get vaccinated if they’re in one of those eligible groups,” he said. “But it’s not all going to be Day 1, it’s not all going to be week one.”
Patients like Formet recognize the opportunity to receive the vaccine as a privilege. The 100-year-old sees it as the chance to regain more independence and return to normalcy.
“I’m so excited I could jump up and down. If I were a little younger I would,” Formet laughed.
On Tuesday, OSUMC planned to administer 1,700 doses of the vaccine. Eventually, the facility will be able to accommodate 3,000 people daily.