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'We're Not There Yet': Health Commissioner Tempers Excitement Over Vaccine

A researcher at Protein Sciences moves a vial in a lab, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Meriden, Conn. The biotech company is currently researching a vaccine for COVID-19.
Jessica Hill
A researcher at Protein Sciences moves a vial in a lab, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Meriden, Conn. The biotech company is currently researching a vaccine for COVID-19.

COVID-19 numbers in Hamilton County are on the rise again after taking a slight dip in late December.

Since last week, 3,852 new cases have been reported and 10 more people have died. There have been an additional 72 hospitalizations. That makes for a total of 54,357 total cases in the county, 2,136 hospitalizations and 421 deaths since the pandemic started. 

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said, "There are currently about 9,000 known active cases in our community, so there is a lot of opportunity still to acquire within our community. I say this really as a reminder that we still need to be extremely cautious with our daily activities. I know this is a new year. I know this is a year of hope because of the vaccine. But we are not there yet."

He said the county has received roughly 500 doses of the vaccine per week, in addition to supplies given to hospitals and to pharmacies. The county wants more vaccines and is limited by the availability of it, which is being doled out by the state, he said.

About 13,400 people have received the vaccination in Hamilton County, which is roughly 1.65% of the population. 

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is lamenting the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public.

"There really hasn't been much planning at the federal or state level for distributing the numbers of vaccine that will need to be distributed if we're going to vaccinate everybody by summer," he said.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said county and city officials are trying to coordinate how best to get people vaccinated, but without a schedule of when and how many vaccines they'll receive, it's hard for them to prepare.

"As you can tell, without any predictability about how many doses we're going to get, it's hard to build the infrastructure because we don't know what we're looking at," said Driehaus.

Cranley said the city and county will work with local hospitals to figure out what kind of capacity the region has to administer the vaccine, once we know how much we'll get and when. There isn't a timeline for when the general public will have access to the vaccine.

Addressing Vaccine Side Effects

Meanwhile, a new landmark in Hamilton County's vaccine distribution is happening this week as people who received their first dose in mid-December start receiving their second and final dose.

UC Health President and CEO Dr. Richard Lofgren said there have been few side effects for people so far but he also warns that will likely change when people receive the second dose.

"What we do know is that people tend to have a stronger reaction with the second dose," he said. "The studies report that people more commonly notice some fatigue and achiness after the second dose. This is really a marker that the vaccine is working."    

Lofgren said the discomfort is the body's immune response to the vaccine and said it's still safe for people to take. He recommends people get the vaccine as soon as they have the opportunity.

He said UC has been able to vaccinate more than 5,000 people since mid-December and has distributed 100 percent of its vaccine supply.

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