Citing low demand, Mercer County health leaders plan to shut down drive thru vaccine site

Mercer County health officials likely will not operate another drive thru clinic for people wanting their first dose of the COVID-19, citing decreased demand that this week, had fewer than two thirds of available vaccine appointments filled.

Since January, the Mercer County Health District has operated a drive thru vaccine clinic at the Mercer County Fairgrounds. But where county health officials were vaccinating about four hundred people a couple weeks ago – the same capacity available Wednesday – only about 250 signed up for an appointment.

“We’re seeing a drop in the demand, across the lower age groups,” said department spokesperson Kristy Fryman, noting a majority of older citizens got the vaccine earlier this year.

The health district is working on plans to hold vaccine walk-in appointments at the health department itself – not unlike the process many health departments ordinarily have for other types of vaccines. This figures to be less labor intensive and reliant on volunteers – it takes 35 to 40 people to run the drive thru site.

And other locations – namely, pharmacies – do continue to offer vaccines, which Fryman. acknowledges may be partially behind the drop in demand at the Fairgrounds.

Still, the drop in demand comes despite only about a quarter of Mercer County citizens having received at least one vaccine dose so far, according to the latest numbers from the Ohio Department of Health. The 24 percent vaccination rate in Mercer is notably lower than many of the Miami Valley’s more populous counties – Montgomery, Greene and Clark Counties all have seen more than 30 percent of residents get at least one shot so far.

Darke, Shelby and Preble Counties, like Mercer, though, have vaccination rates in the low 20s so far.

“We’re not the only county that’s seeing that, especially in rural areas,” Fryman said. “We’re seeing that across the state.”

In the meantime, the Mercer County Fairgrounds will still hold second dose clinics in the coming weeks – for those who have already gotten their first vaccine dose.