‘A few thousand’ Champaign County residents already registered for Phase 1b vaccinations

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Champaign County’s health commissioner says the county has already registered “a few thousand” residents who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1b.

Champaign Health District Commissioner Gabe Jones said the county was “wrapping up” Phase 1a vaccinations on Wednesday in preparation to begin Phase 1b vaccinations in the coming weeks.

“When we found who was eligible in Phase 1b we started registering people. So basically depending on whatever supply we get, we can schedule that many people and they can come in and get their vaccine in the first week,” Jones said.

Gov. Mike DeWine released the vaccination schedule last week for Phase 1b, a group that includes Ohioans ages 65 and older, K-12 school staff and those with severe medical issues. DeWine said Ohioans ages 80 and older will be able to start receiving coronavirus vaccines on Jan. 19, with the state extending the age group eligible to receive the vaccine by five years each week.

That means an estimated 420,000 people ages 80 and older across the state will be eligible to start getting vaccinated as soon as next week. Ohio is slated to receive an estimated 100,000 doses for this group by then.

Between 50 to 60% of Champaign County residents eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1a received a shot, Jones said, although that number among healthcare providers is closer to 70%. Jones said that percentage is nice, “but not anywhere near what we would like it to be.”

But looking ahead, Jones said interest in the vaccine for those eligible in Phase 1b is “much higher.”

“I can tell you from the interest from the 65 and up, and actually pretty much everyone in Phase 1b, there is a much higher increase,” Jones said. “I think we are going to be having a lot of people, and I don’t know what the percentage is going to be, but I think that a lot of people are going to want to get the vaccine who are eligible.”

Jones said “a few thousand” residents eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1b have already registered with the CHD.

Those who have registered will be placed on a list for CHD to contact to set up an appointment when the health district receives their vaccine shipment next week. Vaccinations will take place at the Champaign County Community Center.

“Now that we have all of this figured out, the logistical stuff, we are just waiting to get the vaccine in,” Jones said.

Last week, DeWine announced that local health departments and emergency management agencies must release details about when, where and how people can get vaccinated by Wednesday or Thursday.

Champaign County had 2,310 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The county also had 24 total deaths, according to data from the CHD.

Cases increased by 6,701 in Ohio, the second-lowest number of daily cases reported this week. Throughout the pandemic, Ohio has recorded 799,639 total cases of coronavirus.

The state reported 79 deaths, bringing the total to 9,881.

A new variant of the coronavirus has been discovered in an Ohio patient by scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine.

The variant has a mutation similar to a strain in the U.K., but is believed to have occurred in a strain that was already in the U.S., according to Wexner Medical Center.

Researchers also found an evolution of another U.S. strain with three gene mutations that has reportedly become the dominant virus in Columbus during three weeks in late December and early January.

“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” study leader Dr. Dan Jones, vice-chair of the division of molecular pathology said. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”

The discovery of the Columbus variant indicates that the same mutation could be occurring independently in different parts of the world, according to Wexner Medical Center.

“Viruses naturally mutate and evolve over time, but the changes seen in the last two months have been more prominent than in the first months of the pandemic,” Jones said.