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Cleveland Has Distributed Less Than 30 Percent Of Its COVID-19 Vaccines

Cleveland has administered less than 30 percent of the  6,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses it has received since late December and Mayor Frank Jackson said the slow rollout is because "there is no infrastructure for this."

Cleveland has distributed 1,767 doses and is ramping up for more, the mayor said in press conference Tuesday.

“There are pronouncements made at the federal and the state level as to what should be done, and then it’s left up to local communities to build an infrastructure to do it," he said. "And as we build out this infrastructure and increase our capacity, we’ll be able to do it and do it right, and be more efficient about it, and be more effective with it.”

The city is responsible for vaccinating city residents who qualify in the state’s priority groups, phases 1A and 1B. These groups include health care workers, first responders, and residents and staff of congregate settings such as group homes and nursing homes.

Vaccines are being administered at Public Auditorium in downtown Cleveland, and Jackson said the city will soon launch a mobile unit to vaccinate people who are not able to travel, such as nursing home residents.

Eventually, the city plans to open several other vaccination locations, Jackson said.

“We’re looking at setting up additional vaccination pods in various parts of the city so that … it will be convenient for people to get there,” Jackson said. “We’re building that infrastructure as we go.”

The Cleveland Department of Public Health does not yet have a web portal where people can sign up for the vaccine. Interim Director Brian Kimball said officials are still working on it.

The city's Department of Aging is helping to reach out to senior citizens about when their age group qualifies for the vaccine and where they can get it, Kimball said.

The city is in charge of vaccinations within the Cleveland's limits, while the Cuyahoga County Board of Health is tasked with vaccinations in the suburbs and surrounding areas. And that setup has created some confusion about where Clevelanders can go for vaccines.

When Jackson was asked whether city residents could go to county sites outside the city for vaccination, he said, "The city of Cleveland does exist in the county, so if you’re a resident of the county, it would seem to me you should be able to access the vaccine if it’s available and if you follow the rules of registering.”

He said, though, he is still unsure whether city residents can go to vaccination sites run by the county health department, or if they must stay in the city.

Cuyahoga County residents who don't live in Cleveland can pre-register for the vaccine on the county board of health’s website. Kimball said city residents shouldn't sign up there, though, because they fall under the Cleveland Department of Public Health's jurisdiction.

“If you live in the city of Cleveland, you would contact the Cleveland Department of Public Health to get more information as how to register when your phase group is available or eligible to receive vaccine,” Kimball said.

Starting Jan. 19, Ohio will move into its next phase of vaccine distribution, which includes older adults, teachers and school staff, and individuals with serious medical conditions. Cleveland still has phase 1A residents to vaccinate, but anticipates being able to start phase 1B on time with the rest of the state, Jackson said.

Still, there's some confusion about what that means for the 1A cohort.

“If we receive vaccine for this new group, 1B, and we then run out of vaccine that was designated for 1A, then what happens to those people who want the vaccine in 1A, but there's no more vaccine for them? Can you use 1B to get the vaccine, or are they just out for now?" Jackson said.

Cuyahoga County health officials have said they will not start 1B vaccines for those outside Cleveland until they are finished with everyone in 1A.

City health officials are also looking for guidance on how to register and verify eligible vaccine recipients, Jackson said. Are the age limits absolute, or is there wiggle room?

“What if it’s 80 and above, and somebody comes and is 79 years old? What are you going to do, turn them away?” he said. “So we’re looking at that particular thing as to, not only the verification of it, … but really the sensitivity of, how do you turn people away when they really are eligible, they’re just not eligible right now.”

The city’s health department will release more information about Phase 1B vaccines soon, Jackson said.




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