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As Ohio Distributes Vaccine, DeWine Warns Pandemic Isn't Over Yet

A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Belfast, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020.
Liam McBurney
Pool via AP
A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Belfast, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020.

Ohio should receive 420,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas, Gov. Mike DeWine said at a briefing on Tuesday.

Eight hospitals received their first batchof the Pfizer vaccine today, joining the two hospitals – Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center and UC Health – that got vaccine shipments yesterday. DeWine said he's been told Ohio will continue to get vaccines, including a new one from Moderna, through the end of December.

Medical professionals from across the state joined DeWine to discuss their institution's distribution of the vaccine. That included Kasi Gardner, a registered nurse at Mercy Health Springfield Regional Medical Center, who received the COVID-19 vaccine during the briefing.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted spoke about his visit Tuesday to the Ohio Health Riverside Methodist Hospital, where vaccines will be distributed to the staff over the next 24 hours.

"The term I heard today was that this is the beginning of the end," Husted said. "This was hope."

The Ohio Department of Health reported concerning increases in COVID-19 numbers, however, with 8.755 new cases and 103 deaths in the last day. The state also reported 614 new hospitalizations, its second-highest on record, and 74 ICU admissions.

DeWine said Holmes County has the lowest spread of COVID-19 in the state, which is still almost four times what the CDC considers high incidence. Counties with the highest incidence are geographically spread across Ohio.

Although DeWine said there is hope with the vaccine, Ohio still has to work to stop community spread.

"We now have more patients just in the ICU than we had total patients hospitalized at our peak this summer," DeWine said.

DeWine expects local health departments to start receiving vaccines next week. The state is sending them additional guidance today to begin coordinating future distribution of the vaccine, prioritizing those living in congregate settings. Only nursing homes that have not signed up with pharmacies will be taken care of by local health departments.

DeWine said local health departments should also prioritize health care providers who are not getting the vaccine elsewhere.

As discussions continue over another COVID-19 relief bill, the Republican governor called for Congress to pass funding to help the state pay for distributing vaccines. But he added that the state will find a way to pay for it no matter what.

"We will get people vaccinated in Ohio," DeWine said.

DeWine warned the pandemic is far from over, and it will take months before precautions such as mask wearing and physical distancing can end.

"It's good news. We're happy about it. We're excited about it, but we have to get ourselves out of it," DeWine said.

Abigail Bottar is a junior at Kent State University. She is pursuing a major in political science with a concentration in American politics and minors in history and women's studies. Additionally, Abigail is starting her second semester copy editing for The Burr.