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DeWine: 'The Day We've Been Waiting For' As Ohio Gets COVID-19 Vaccine

Ohio State employees wait for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete
Associated Press
Ohio State employees wait for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

A few dozen health care workers in Columbus and Cincinnati were vaccinated for COVID-19 on Monday, becoming the first people in Ohio – and anywhere in the country – to receive the newly-approved drug.

"Today is the day we've been waiting for. The vaccine arrived in Ohio this morning," Gov. Mike DeWine said at a press conference Monday.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus and UC Health in Cincinnati received 975 doses each of the Pfizer vaccine, which won emergency approval from the FDA over the weekend.

DeWine said he and First Lady Fran DeWine were at the Wexner Medical Center loading bay this morning to greet the truck carrying that first shipment. "Fran and I were thrilled to see health care workers get vaccinated. It was truly a moment of hope," he said.

Wexner Medical Center and UC Health began administering the vaccine with a "dry run" of a few highest-risk workers this morning, and will continue administering their supplies over the rest of the week.

One of the 30 Ohio State employees at the front of the line was Dr. Mercy Dickson, an emergency medicine resident physician who takes care of multiple COVID-19 patients every day. "It went fantastic. Painless, unlike usual," Dickson said with a laugh.

Kaitlyn Kaufman, a respiratory therapist at UC Health, said the experience was easy for her as well. "It's just like the flu shot," she said.

UC Health president Dr. Rick Lofgren said they gave out 20 doses today, focusing on health care providers like Kaufman who are critical positions with unavoidable exposure to infectious patients.

"From the beginning of the pandemic, we've all been looking forward to this moment in time," Lofgren said.

Starting tomorrow, eight hospitals around the state will each receive 975 vaccine doses. Those hospitals are: Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Lucas County; Cleveland Clinic in Cuyahoga County; MetroHealth in Cuyahoga County; Mercy Health Springfield Regional in Clark County; OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Franklin County; Aultman Hospital in Stark County; Ohio Health O'Bleness Hospital in Athens County; and Genesis Hospital in Muskingum County.

DeWine said those hospitals were selected based on geography, population and access to ultra-cold storage capacity, which is required for the Pfizer vaccine.

More vaccinations could possibly follow soon. In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, DeWine said he hopes the Moderna candidate will be approved and ship out next week. 

Starting Friday, Ohio will also begin vaccinations in 5-10 nursing homes as part of a scaled launch with the CDC – speeding up the state's timeline for those gropus.

"We know every shot that is put in an arm has the potential to be life-saving," DeWine said.

The governor said Ohio will launch a new dashboard in the coming days to track how many people have received the vaccine, a rollout process that he warned would take months.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations remain at concerningly high levels. The Ohio Department of Health reported 7,875 new COVID-19 cases in the last day, along with 59 deaths. There are currently 30 counties in Ohio with rates of over 1,000 new cases per 100,000 people, which means one in every 100 people has contracted COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

Another 291 people were hospitalized across the state, and 38 patients were admitted to the ICU. There are also 827 patients currently on ventilators, up from 360 just one month ago. 

"This might look like a plateau, and maybe it is, but we just can't tell that yet," he said.

Even if cases level off, DeWine said Ohio's coronavirus numbers are "unsustainable" for hospitals.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.