OHIO — As the coronavirus vaccine dribbles out far more slowly than promised, many of the people who can get it are refusing to do so.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday said that a whopping 60% of nursing home workers who have been offered the vaccine have refused it.
The news comes amid disappointing vaccination numbers across Ohio, which was told by the Trump administration that it would receive more than 530,000 doses of the vaccines by the end of December. Just 94,000 so far have been administered.
“I am not satisfied with where we are in Ohio,” DeWine said during a coronavirus press conference. “We’re not moving fast enough, but we’re going to get there.”
He said he had a Wednesday morning conference call with CEOs of Ohio hospital systems and set a goal of getting the covid vaccine into people’s arms within 24 hours of when hospitals receive it. DeWine said the job of distributing the vaccine is more complex than many appreciate, but it’s vital to do it quickly.
“There’s a moral imperative to get this out just as quickly as we can,” he said.
But the numbers emerging from nursing homes might portend something just as bad.
“Our bigger concern is the amount of staff who are not taking it,” DeWine said. “I don’t have data in front of me, but anecdotally, it looks like somewhere around 40% of staff at nursing homes are taking the vaccines and 60% are not taking it.”
Those figures are disturbing not only because of what they might say about attitudes toward the vaccines among the larger population. They also mean that most staffers will be unprotected as they move between the outside world and nursing homes filled with vulnerable people — some of whom will not be able to take the vaccine for medical reasons.
Even so, DeWine said he isn’t going to make anybody take it.
“I’m not going to compel anybody to do it, but I’m urging people to take that vaccine,” he said. “It’s very important,”
It’s not clear why the governor isn’t imposing such a requirement.
All 50 states have laws requiring — with exemptions — that children be vaccinated before going to school. Also, many healthcare facilities require employees to be vaccinated.
A DeWine spokesman didn’t immediately respond when asked why DeWine wouldn’t order Ohio nursing homes to follow suit.
Ohio’s problems distributing the coronavirus vaccine come amid national problems producing and distributing the two vaccines that so far have received approval. With hospital beds filling, the country is falling far short of the Trump administration’s promises.
The administration said that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of December, but so far, only 11.4 million doses have been sent to states and just 2.1 million people have received a first dose, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
At the current pace, it will take 10 years to vaccinate enough Americans to achieve herd immunity, NBC reported.
Among those promising 20 million vaccinated Americans by the end of 2020 was U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. He made the statement just 11 days ago in a press conference with DeWine.
Adams dismissed reports that vaccine doses were coming to states at substantially lower levels than promised as blips that are to be expected in such a complex project. He also scoffed at the need to invoke the Defense Production Act to scale up production of approved vaccines, saying the manufacturers were operating at full capacity.
Three days later, the New York Times reported that Pfizer, manufacturer of one of the vaccines, was close to a deal with the administration to use the Defense Production Act to obtain more of the materials to make it. Pfizer had been asking for such help since September, the story said.
Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He’s won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.