Ohio to continue provide access to COVID tests, vaccines after public health emergency ends

The Ohio Department of Health will continue to make sure Ohioans have access to COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatment after the public health emergency ends in May.

The previously Biden administration announced plans to end the COVID public health emergency declarations on May 11.

ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff noted Friday there is still a lot to be clarified with the public health emergency ending, but said it will not signal an end to all federal funding — including federal funding the state health department receives.

“Our department is going to continue to work to ensure that access to testing, vaccines and treatment remains available to as many Ohioans as we possibly can,” he said.

Vanderhoff added people may see new copays, but people shouldn’t have to pay for vaccines, especially if they’re obtained in network.

Since the holiday season has ended, Ohio has seen a sharp decrease in respiratory illnesses, including COVID, RSV and influenza.

In the past week, there were 98 influenza hospitalizations in Ohio, Vanderhoff said. In late November, the state had 1,400 influenza hospitalizations in a week.

While it’s encouraging news, he reminded Ohioans that doesn’t mean those viruses have disappeared.

Vanderhoff stressed the importance of staying up to date on vaccines, including the COVID vaccine and its boosters.

“We still have a lot of winter ahead of us,” he said. “We still need to do our very best to make sure we’re protected.”

Vanderhoff cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting those who received the updated COVID booster were 12.7 times less like to die from the virus than those who are not vaccinated. People with the updated booster are 2.4 times less likely to die from COVID than those who only received the initial primary vaccine series.

As of Thursday, 14.98% of Ohioans have received the updated COVID booster, according to ODH.

“This is leaving too many people vulnerable and sadly means too may of us are taking unnecessary risks,” Vanderhoff said.

Anyone interested in getting the coronavirus vaccine or booster can visit https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov/ to find a vaccine provider or can call their doctor.

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