Delaware General Health District: COVID-19 vaccination rollout begins

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

The Delaware General Health District began the initial phase of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccinations Dec. 23 and is prepared to hold mass clinics as future vaccination phases roll out, health district commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said Jan. 4.

"All local health districts in Ohio are responsible to vaccinate all those persons within Tier 1A that are non-hospital health-care providers and all congregate-living and their staff that are not under one of the federal/state contracts for mental health, behavioral health and developmental disabilities," Hiddleson said.

Delaware Public Health District

She said those groups include nursing-homes residents and staff, assisted-living residents and staff, psychiatric hospital patients and staff, people with developmental disabilities and those with mental illness who live in group homes or centers and staff at those locations, plus Ohio veterans homes’ residents and staff and EMS responders.

"Health-care providers not affiliated with a hospital include physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and their staff that are directly involved with the patients," Hiddleson said. "We are still working on Tier 1A, as there are thousands of persons in that group, as well as about 80 agency and home visits that need to be made. We will move to Tier B when Tier A is mostly completed and the vaccine is available."  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines on the tiers and a succession of immunization phases with each including different segments of the population.

Each state is determining how to implement the tiers, Hiddleson said.

For example, the CDC's first tier, which it called Phase 1A, is limited to high-risk health workers and first responders.

For the week of Jan. 4, "we are increasing the number of clinics per week to six, Monday through Saturday, and we continue to vaccinate those in Tier 1A," Hiddleson said.

The health district's nurses are administering the vaccines, she said.

"As we move forward and the vaccine supply increases, we will be utilizing our medical reserve corps volunteers, EMS/paramedics, etc., that are approved by their boards to give immunizations," she said.

The Ohio Department of Health website states the vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

A Dec. 23 ODH news release quoted Gov. Mike DeWine as saying Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution will include older Ohioans and school workers, with the goal of having schools fully open by March 1.

Vaccines will be available to those who choose to receive them who are at least 65 years old or those living with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders, the release said.

Adults working in Ohio's schools also will have the option to receive the vaccine, the release said.

“Ohioans in the 65-and-older category make up just under 87% of COVID deaths. This is a stunning number, and it’s critical that we protect our older Ohioans,” DeWine said in the release.

ThisWeek asked the Ohio Department of Health about the safety of vaccines for those who recently have tested positive for COVID-19 or for the antibodies.

ODH press secretary Melanie Amato referred to CDC guidelines and to a CDC vaccination FAQ.

Specifically to the point, Amato pointed to this CDC answer under the question, "If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available?"

"COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. You should not be required to have an antibody test before you are vaccinated.

"However, anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and after they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation.

"Additionally, current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired."

Hiddelson added, "The recommendation at this time is to delay vaccination until you have recovered from COVID prior to vaccination. For most people, this would be at least a 10-day period with the final 24 (hours) fever-free/symptom improvement."

Delaware City Council in October and November included the health district in disbursements of funds the city had received in the third round of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Included in the disbursement was money for a "points of dispensing" trailer that preventive-health director Adam Howard said could allow COVID-19’s vaccine to be distributed at drive-thru clinics while maintaining social distancing.

Drive-thru clinics require such equipment as cones, signs and generators, in addition to the refrigeration and typical clinic supplies, Howard said. Such clinics would function more efficiently with a trailer to store and transport the items, he said.  

"The (vaccine) supply is coming in much smaller quantities, so the trailer is not being used yet,” Hiddleson said Jan. 4. “As we get to the larger tiers that include the general public, we will run larger clinics, and the trailer will be used."

The city of Delaware's CARES Act disbursements came when the health district was facing skyrocketing costs because of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the district had about five people working full time on infectious diseases, Howard said.  

"We have 42 staff members working on COVID-19,” he said in November. “To put this in perspective, during all of the year 2019, the health district investigated 1,441 infectious diseases and issued two quarantines-isolations. For COVID-19 alone in 2020, the health district has investigated and issued over 7,500 COVID-19 quarantines-isolations."

The ODH has more vaccination information at tinyurl.com/yxf9yvue.

ThisWeek assistant managing editor Scott Hummel contributed to this story.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews