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State administering nearly all vaccine doses

Staff photos / R. Michael Semple Mackenzie Yako of Garrettsville, a clinical pharmacist at Trumbull Regional Medical Center, holds a box of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite concerns about COVID-19 vaccines sitting around, about 92 to 93 percent of all doses in the state are used within seven days after their distribution, according to the governor’s office.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 website, however, shows Ohio is using only 70 percent of its vaccinations.

That’s because the CDC counts vaccines the state has yet to receive, said Dan Tierney, Gov. Mike DeWine’s spokesman.

“It’s a data analysis problem with the CDC,” he said.

The CDC website shows Ohio has about 2 million “total delivered” COVID-19 vaccines and has used about 70 percent of them.

But that includes hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses sitting in a Pfizer storage facility in Kalamazoo, Mich. These have been “banked” for future use by Ohio’s long-term care facilities, Tierney said.

“For some reason, the CDC counts it as distributed — even though we haven’t received them,” he said.

“They’re sitting there because of federal rules for congregate care. Ohio has asked the (President Joe) Biden administration to distribute it and the administration released 77,000 of what is in reserve in the federal long-term program.”

Tierney added: “Most people think it’s distributed, but the CDC distributed figure includes vaccines to the long-term care pharmacy program and keeps it in storage until pharmacies request it. The state doesn’t have access to it.”

Many other states are facing the same issue.

The CDC website shows 4.2 million vaccines delivered to Florida and 2.8 million administered. It lists 7.6 million delivered in California and 5 million administered, and 2.4 million delivered in Pennsylvania and 1.5 million administered.

CDC statistics show Ohio is seventh in the nation in giving the most COVID-19 vaccines of any state.

As for the 7 to 8 percent that isn’t used in Ohio, Tierney said most of that still is given after the state’s preferred seven-day time period with a very small amount spoiled.

That spoiled amount included an unspecified number of doses that weren’t properly stored in cold temperatures Feb. 1 prior to being given to those at five northeast Ohio long-term care facilities in Ashtabula, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties.

TRUMBULL COUNTY

Also, part of the CDC number depends on when the federal agency is counting doses, according to Frank Migliozzi, commissioner of the Trumbull County Combined Health District, and Sandra Swann, the district’s nursing director, in a joint written statement in response to questions about the vaccine process.

For example, the district had 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine last Wednesday that were used later that week and also received a shipment of another 1,950 doses that same day to be used this week, they said.

“This could make it look like there is more vaccine than is being used, but all of it is allocated,” Migliozzi and Swann wrote.

They said no vaccines in Trumbull County have gone unused.

The vaccination process has been going “fairly well,” they wrote, adding: “The demand certainly exceeds the supply in the total amount of vaccine that is coming into our county by all providers.”

The two stressed that the county’s COVID-19 vaccination “process has allowed for zero waste at this time.”

If there are leftover vaccines at the end of a day, the district first contacts those who are eligible to receive them who haven’t been inoculated yet, according to Migliozzi and Swann.

“There is a very short window of time to have recipients available to receive the leftover doses and we would prefer to have individuals vaccinated than have to throw it away,” they wrote. “As such, we will use any and all means to reach individuals on all of our lists to ensure that no COVID-19 vaccine is going to waste, and if individuals on our list cannot be reached, we will find someone who can come on a moment’s notice. This is in compliance with the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. DeWine’s guidance on distributing vaccine.”

MAHONING COUNTY

Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac said the vaccines are used quickly in the county.

“The biggest problem is, we don’t have enough vaccines for those who want them,” he said. “We have a very long list of people who want the vaccine.”

The county health district is among a number of agencies providing the COVID-19 vaccine in the area.

It has about 11,000 people registered to get the vaccine, Tekac said.

So far, only two doses had to be discarded, he said. In one case, a syringe with the vaccine was dropped and the other involved a person with a developmental disability who moved during the inoculation, he said.

“We have not thrown out any vaccines because it was leftover and we couldn’t find someone willing to take it,” Tekac said.

There have been cancellations and no-shows for vaccinations, almost always because the person received the inoculation elsewhere, he said.

“It’s only been a handful here and there,” Tekac said.

When that occurs, the health district contacts someone else on its pre-registration list and asks that person to come for an inoculation, he said. If that person can’t come, the district goes to the next person on the list, he said.

“The process is going very smooth,” Tekac said. “We’d love to vaccinate everyone, but with the amount of vaccines we get, it’s a challenge.”

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