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Vaccines Could Come to Wheeling as Soon as Dec. 12

WHEELING — The first of the vaccines to prevent COVID-19 could arrive in Wheeling as soon as Dec. 12, according to Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.

The first batch of vaccines to come will be a small one, and health care providers working directly with COVID patients likely will be the first to be immunized, he said. It will likely be spring before it is available to the general public.

“We will follow state of West Virginia plans, and that will be universal for all counties,” Gamble said. “The vaccines will be distributed from the (Centers for Disease Control) to a hub. The hub may be the State Health Department, or it might be a facility that can hold the vaccine until it is distributed to a county health department, or a provider to vaccinate.

“The way it is busted out, and who gets it and when they get it, is going to be universal. Everybody will be following the same thing.”

County health departments have received draft guidelines pertaining to the distribution of the vaccine, and local plans will coincide with state policies, according to Gamble.

Plans call for hospital COVID unit employees, hospital emergency room employees and hospital intensive care unit employees to be the first to be immunized, he said.

“Then you will follow a natural progression on how and who gets vaccinated after that,” Gamble said. “It will be distributed in waves. We will see another wave of vaccine come in, then another one, and another. At some point, there will be a regular shipment to stand up your vaccination programs and clinics.”

Based on meetings taking place on a national level, the earliest vaccines could be distributed is about Dec. 12, according to Gamble.

“That’s because the vaccine is in production. It is not available to be distributed, but it is in production,” he said. “If the FDA approves both or three of the products on that day, you can expect very shortly the system to get it out to the county health departments, and then those providers will have them rather quickly.

“It isn’t going to be large does, either. It is going to be enough to vaccinate a small group, then move on to the next group and the next group.”

Once major groups immediately affected by COVID are vaccinated, the vaccines will be available to the general public, Gamble said.

“There’s going to be a large effort to get those who really need it for front line, then those who need it for the community,” he said. “Then eventually, we hope it is just readily available.”

The vaccines presently being manufactured need to be kept at sub-freezing temperatures, and Gamble said there are facilities in the state with the storage units to accomodate the need.

“That’s why we are probably going to have a hub system, where the vaccine is held and then shipped out to county health departments for specific vaccine clinics,” he said.

What product isn’t used during the vaccine clinics then would be returned to the hub for later use, he said.

Future vaccines likely won’t require sub-freezing temperatures, he said.

Gamble reminds the public that free testing for COVID is still happening in Ohio County. The testing takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Valley Grove Volunteer Fire Department, 355 Fire House Lane, Valley Grove; the Warwood Fire Station, 1301 Richland Ave., Warwood; and the Wheeling Island Fire Station, 11 North Wabash St., Wheeling.

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