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Cuyahoga County's Demand For COVID-19 Vaccine Far Outpacing Supply

Cuyahoga County health officials are expecting to receive far fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses than the number of residents now eligible to receive it.

The county begins Phase 1B of vaccination distribution this week, Health Commissioner Terry Allan told county council Tuesday, using the limited number of doses delivered so far.

To vaccinate those eligible under the current phase of Ohio’s distribution plan, Allan said he expects to receive about 15,000 doses of vaccine a week for the next several weeks, eventually expanding to those over the age of 65 and teachers and school staff in the first week of February.

“It’s estimated that there are about 230,000 adults in Cuyahoga County over age 65, then from our surveys working with the Educational Services Center we estimate about 22,000 adults working in schools,” Allan said. “So, these are not small numbers.”

Those two groups – adults over age 65 and school staff – are part of Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan, which began Tuesday. The first group, Phase 1A, made up of people in congregate living settings and health care workers, are still receiving shots.

Allan estimates more than 10,000 people in the county from Phase 1A still need to be vaccinated.

“Lots of work to go, even as we begin to move into the 1B phase,” Allan said. “There is the problem with supply and demand, particularly in the urban counties in the state that we are facing.”

Cuyahoga County has set up vaccination centers at more than 80 sites spread across the county and Allan estimates 5,000 shots could be administered daily.

The area’s hospitals and major pharmacies are also helping to administer doses. Dr. Alice Kim an infectious disease expert with the Cleveland Clinic told county council the hospital system is prepared to administer as many doses as are available in the county.

“We are already working towards if we had unlimited supply,” Kim said. “So at this point we have staffing up to doing 7,000-plus vaccinations a day within our health system.”

Other local hospital systems – University Hospitals and MetroHealth – say they are similarly prepared.

Local officials were expecting more doses to come from what they thought was a large federal stockpile and were surprised by the federal government’s announcement last week that the stockpile does not exist.

Allan said he spoke with Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday morning about vaccine supplies coming to the state in the near future.

“His understanding is that in the coming weeks we wouldn’t expect to see much of a difference in vaccine flow,” Allan said. “We had all hoped that we would have seen that stockpile available, but it was a letdown for all of us.”

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