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Ohio, Marshall County Health Departments Excited to Expand Vaccination Pool

Health professionals weren’t caught flat-footed Wednesday morning with Gov. Jim Justice announcing that the age range for COVID-19 vaccinations will drop to 70, effective Wednesday.

They welcomed the opportunity to continue vaccinating new groups — as long as the vaccine doses kept coming.

Marshall County Threat Preparedness Director Mark Ackermann said the department was happy to get to work vaccinating a new range of clients.

Ackermann said that even before the announcement was made Wednesday morning, the Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel county health departments had been scheduled for a phone conference to become a new regional clinic.

“We’re told that we should be becoming one of these clinic sites, they’re doing regionally. We’ve already got a planning meeting scheduled for (today),” Ackermann said. “We’re looking forward to it. Our 80-year-old clinics that we’ve done have gone very well, they were very eager.”

Ackermann added that Marshall County had been grouped with Brooke and Hancock counties for the next round of vaccine distribution, which was untenable with the advanced age of the clients needing lengthy car rides to be vaccinated.

“The state has since aligned us up down here, so we’re able to meet tomorrow and try to develop a plan where the three counties will develop a plan,” he added. “We’re ready. We’re eager. The only thing we need is the vaccine.”

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said that the county has received 13,300 vaccines since vaccinations have started, almost all of which have been administered or are scheduled to be so shortly.

Gamble said the additional workload would not pose a challenge, as long as the general public understands the logistical limitations and somewhat limited numbers of vaccine available.

“It’s just an additional new group to get in, and as long as it’s understood, we have X doses, and we can vaccinate X number of people. It’s very difficult when you have people standing or driving in lines, to tell someone, ‘You are the last person, everyone else beyond you cannot get it.’ That’s why the appointment style works a whole lot better.”

Gamble, like Ackermann, said the county was ready and willing to undertake the new clients, as long as the state was able to keep the new doses coming to the clinics in their new regional distribution method.

“If we say we want to open it up, for public health across West Virginia, it can be handled and it can be worked through,” Gamble said. “We do, however, need to have the logistics down, either the vaccine, or the process.”

Gamble added that the health department is prepared to work with third-party partners to distribute the vaccine, such as Warwood Kroger, which vaccinated Ohio County Schools employees.

Daily testing in both counties remains an ongoing concern, and Gamble wanted to stress that people with suspected symptoms continue to receive tests, and follow directions after testing.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department reported two more COVID-related deaths — one person who was hospitalized and one who resided in a long-term care facility — in its Wednesday night update. It also announced 23 new positive cases, bringing its totals to 3,098 cases and 56 deaths.

The Marshall County Health Department reported 10 new confirmed positive cases and 15 new probable cases Wednesday, bringing that county’s totals to 1,948 confirmed cases, 488 probable cases, nine hospitalizations and 53 associated deaths.

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