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COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics in Ohio County Fill Up Quickly

WHEELING — At 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department had opened its phone lines to book the next four days of COVID-19 vaccine clinics. By 9:30, they were booked solid.

The intense public interest in the vaccine, now being distributed to the 80-years-and-older crowd, wasn’t surprising, according to health department administrator Howard Gamble. He said that age group is dialed in on staying medically active. The clinics are scheduled to occur on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.

“This age group is one that is consistent with vaccinations, from flu to this. They are willing, they are ready, and, as we see, they are very, very quick to make the call and get registered,” Gamble said.

“Unfortunately, we only had those additional 160 (doses) to give out. We hope for more, but that 160 didn’t take long.

The health department recently outsourced their incoming calls to the county emergency operations center, which has nine people able to receive calls and register patients, up from the three available at the health department.

“The process, on our end, went a little smoother, using the call center with the staff downstairs went a whole lot smoother. We do need to refine it more, so when people continue to call, the number zeroes itself out, or notifies people to please wait for more announcements. But when we get vaccines in on a mass scale … it is working a little bit better.”

With the next shipment of vaccine, which Gamble said is the limiting factor in distribution, the health department will look at starting more at-home deliveries. The department worked with the Wheeling Housing Authority to identify four housing units with residents 80 and older to administer vaccines there. The goal is to move to the remaining such facilities, which number about 10.

“WIth limited doses coming, we can only move so much,” Gamble said. “It is nice to come here and get your appointment done, but we think, because of our high number of high-rises, we may need to visit.”

While clinics are currently being held at the health department, for the most part, Gamble hopes that when logistics catch up with demand, and the health department has enough doses on hand, that the clinics may be held at other areas throughout the county with substantial parking, such as at Wheeling Park or at the Highlands.

The need for parking, Gamble said, is so health care providers can keep an eye on people after their inoculation to ensure side effects don’t arise, either from their body reacting, or a problem with the vaccine itself.

As of Monday, Gamble said calls over the weekend indicated that additional doses would continue to come in to vaccinate higher education personnel, K-12 education staff and 80-plus year olds.

He added that second doses for those needing them — those who got their first dose in mid-December — are made available as they come up, with no issues yet.

“We’re able to meet (the need), it’s just a matter of getting it here, logistically, Gamble said. “The hub in Morgantown really needs to move fast, when a truck comes in with a supply, on who gets it and how fast. The problem we have is, when is that truck arriving with those doses, so they’re not driving here three times a day or week.

“The delivery system’s becoming more efficient as we go,” he added. “No one’s missed (a second dose) yet. We have moved some people around so we don’t throw any doses away while we await the next shipment.”

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department announced one new COVID-related death of a long term care center resident and 34 new positive cases, bringing the county’s totals to 3,053 cases and 52 deaths.

The Marshall County Health Department announced 51 new confirmed positive COVID cases and 31 new probable cases Monday night. That puts the county’s totals at 1,921 confirmed cases, 469 probable cases, 11 hospitalizations and 53 associated deaths.

All four Northern Panhandle counties remained in “red,” the highest-risk category, on Monday’s Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 daily alert map.

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