Delaware County: Health district planned for pandemic long before COVID-19

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

CORRECTION: The Delaware County District Library is not accepting vaccination registrations. An earlier version of this story indicated otherwise.

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Delaware Public Health District was busy conducting inspections, issuing birth and death certificates and providing immunizations and other services.

It also was refining plans to respond to any eventual pandemic, health commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said.

Delaware Public Health District

For the past year, those plans have been put into action, including contingencies for mass vaccinations, Hiddleson said.

As of April 28, she said, the health district had administered 23,959 vaccinations.

Also as of April 28, the Ohio Department of Health's COVID-19 vaccination dashboard reported 81,110 Delaware County residents – 31.78% of the population – had completed vaccinations against the virus.

Hiddleson said most of that figure could have been people vaccinated locally by private or medical suppliers or vaccinated outside the county. The local district has vaccinated residents from outside the county and Ohio, she said.

The district began vaccinations in December and has averaged almost 1,800 a week in March and April, she said. On some weeks, the district has vaccinated more than 6,000 people, she said.

"Local public health in the state of Ohio has used emergency-preparedness dollars for more than 15 years to do pandemic planning. Part of that was to plan for points of dispensing (for vaccinations),” she said. “All of this work that we've been doing to be able to run these 2,000-, 3,000-, 5,000-person clinics is all based on those plans that we've developed over these years."

The district's early vaccination efforts were drive-thru clinics at EMS stations, she said. Now the district is using mostly indoor clinics, she said, and all vaccinations require advance registration.

The district's current routine is a series of weekly clinics, including Powell City Hall, 47 Hall St., on Wednesdays; SourcePoint, 800 Cheshire Road, on Thursdays; and the shopping center north of Delaware, on the west side of U.S. Route 23 North, on Saturdays. All are indoor clinics, Hiddleson said.

Additionally, the district holds a drive-thru clinic at the Genoa Township EMS station, 7049 Big Walnut Road, on Fridays, she said.

Health providers across Ohio are seeing a trend in which some people fail to appear for their scheduled vaccinations, she said.

A likely cause for that, Hiddleson said, is that people registered with multiple vaccine providers and chose the first available, failing to notify the other providers.

She said the health district asks that anyone failing to appear for a scheduled vaccination notify the district. In this way, she said, the district can make sure more available doses are used by contacting people signed up on a list for those willing to appear at a clinic on short notice. 

The vaccination clinics are made possible by the district's medical-reserve corps volunteers, Hiddleson said.

During March, she said, 157 volunteers – all certified to give inoculations – helped vaccinate people at the district's clinics.

"We are very thankful for our volunteers," she said.

The district also began work the week of April 19 to vaccinate those ages 16 to 18 at all high schools in the county, Hiddleson said.

"Delaware City Schools was pleased to partner with the Delaware Public Health District to make vaccinations easily accessible for our students who wanted to be vaccinated. DPHD staff and volunteers were incredibly professional and accommodating to our students. The entire process was well organized and extremely efficient," said Jennifer Ruhe, the school district’s communications director.

Adults may sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations at delawarehealth.org/covid-19vaccine/, Hiddleson said.

In addition, the Delaware County District Library assists with registration calls made to the health district, and SourcePoint is providing similar assistance.

The district has used the Pfizer vaccine and now uses mostly the Moderna vaccine, she said. Each requires two injections several weeks apart.

Gov. Mike DeWine on April 23 announced the resumption of use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 15 women receiving the vaccine experienced blood clots.

 The Columbus Dispatch said those cases represented one for each 8 million people receiving the vaccine.

Hiddleson said the health district has doses of the J&J vaccine on hand.

"We definitely believe that there is a niche for that one-dose vaccine. For certain populations, the ability to get two doses will be a little bit more difficult than to get one," she said.

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