BY BRIANNA BECERRA
The world has been anxiously awaiting the release of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the time has finally come. Though it has been covered extensively by national news sources, citizens of Medina County have been left wondering what vaccine clinics look like in their area. The first ever vaccine clinics for the county were held this week, and the Medina County Health Department states that there will be more clinics in the near future.
The first COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Medina County took place in Medina and Brunswick on December 23, and the most recent clinic was held at the Wadsworth fire station on December 24. Due to the limited number of vaccines available, only a select group of people are eligible to be vaccinated at this time. This group includes healthcare workers who regularly care for COVID-19 patients, first responders and residents and staff of nursing homes, among others.
“For Medina County, in our first shipment we received 400,” said Natalie Lonjak, Community Relations Specialist for the Medina County Health Department. “Yesterday [December 23] we administered about 94. Those were how many people made appointments to get them. Today we have 89 scheduled.”
When it comes to where to be vaccinated, it is not completely clear yet. Lonjak states that they have been using public facilities, such as the Wadsworth fire station, to hold vaccination clinics. This might not always be the case, though, as it depends on when and where the vaccines are made available.
“It’ll depend on how the roll out happens, such as when and how many we’ll have available,” said Lonjak. “I would assume it would probably be community clinics like this. The goal is to eventually have places like your normal doctor’s office have it available for you.”
As for the frequency of the clinics, that is also largely unknown. While the Health Department would like to have citizens vaccinated as quickly as possible, it all depends on how many vaccines they receive.
“As fast as we get shipments in, we will be scheduling stuff like this,” said Lonjak.
The vaccine that Medina County received is the Moderna vaccine, which is administered in two doses. The other vaccine from Pfizer is also administered in two doses, but Lonjak explains why Moderna is preferred locally over Pfizer.
“I believe that the main thing is that Pfizer, their vaccine is ultra-cold, and Moderna is not,” said Lonjak. “It’s a way that they store and manufacture them.”
Because the Pfizer vaccines must stay at an extremely cold temperature, it can make transportation and storage more difficult. While both vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective per FDA guidelines, Moderna is easier for health care workers to store and distribute. More information about the Moderna vaccine can be found on the Medina County Health Department website.
Some Americans are concerned about whether or not receiving the vaccine will be mandatory. The Ohio Department of Health has stated that the vaccine will not be mandatory, leaving the option up to the individual. Lonjak reinforces this statement, but she recommends that everyone should be vaccinated once it is available to the general public.
Medina County is only in the first phase of vaccinations, but Governor Mike DeWine announced on December 23 that the next phase of vaccinations will include teachers and school employees. He hopes that all Ohio schools will be back in-person by March 1. There will be other groups of people included in the next phase as well.
“The next phase will be more of our vulnerable populations like people over the age of 65 and people with developmental disabilities,” said Lonjak.
Though the announcement of the next wave of vaccines creates hope for Ohioans, Lonjak asserts that they have no idea how many vaccines they will be given. She states that the situation changes on a daily basis, as the Health Department receives daily COVID-19 updates.
Some people have expressed concerns about side effects of the vaccine. Lonjak addresses these concerns.
“They’re just the basic things similar to when you receive a flu vaccination,” said Lonjak. “Sore arm, maybe a little bit of tenderness at the spot. We haven’t really heard of any major side effects.”
There have also been worries over whether or not the vaccine can trigger allergic reactions. Though it is possible, it is extremely unlikely. The CDC website provides more information about potential reactions and steps to take to prevent them. Lonjak eases any concerns about allergic reactions caused by the vaccine.
“There have been some cases [of allergic reactions] nationally, but not in Medina County yet,” said Lonjak. “But that’s expected with any vaccine, so we have standard protocols here when we do any type of vaccination clinic. We monitor for 15 minutes after receiving it to make sure they’re feeling okay.”
As the COVID-19 vaccine makes its way into Medina County, more groups will be eligible to be vaccinated. Though it is not clear right now as to when the vaccine will be available to the general public, the Health Department stresses that it is moving as quickly as it can to vaccinate as many people as possible.