DeWine adds 50-year-olds to vaccination list

COLUMBUS — In his biggest step yet to expand Ohio’s coronavirus vaccination program, Gov. Mike DeWine Monday announced he is lowering the age requirement from 60-years-olds to 50 beginning Thursday.

The announcement followed a conference call DeWine had with county health commissioners statewide. The governor said some of the commissioners reported that they had vaccine appointments still open for this week and they thought they could handle additional demand.

The decision also comes as the state expects increased vaccine shipments in the coming weeks, leading to the start of mass vaccination sites where up to 6,000 people could be vaccinated in a single day.

While workers in grocery stores and restaurants have publicly called on the governor to include them in the next round of vaccine eligibility, DeWine said he stuck with the age ranges for a good reason. He chose to continue eligibility by age, rather than occupation because it focused more on the most vulnerable people in the state.

“If we go to 50, which we will on Thursday, the people 50 years and up account for, I think, 97, 98 percent of the deaths. So it’s the best indicator and so important that we don’t get sidetracked,” DeWine said.

Besides people age 50 and above being added to the vaccine list, he also added people with Type 2 diabetes and end-stage renal disease. Other recently approved medical conditions included Type 1 diabetes, people with ALS, those who have had a bone marrow transplant or are pregnant.

Can Ohio handle the influx of new people seeking the vaccine? The group of newly allowed 50 to 59-year-olds is approximately 1.2 million people.

“We have the capacity here. We think we’re ready to go. We have great health workers and a lot of volunteers. So, as fast as this vaccine comes into Ohio, we’re going to be able to get it out,” DeWine said.

At his Monday briefing the governor also announcement the launch of the state’s long-awaited vaccine appointment web site, gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. It is designed to let you search for available vaccine clinic openings near you and then permit you to reserve the appointment without searching multiple sites.

Later this week, the state will update the one number people will be looking for with great interest. That’s the ratio of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.

DeWine announced last week that he will withdraw all of the state’s health restrictions when the number reaches 50 per 100,000 for two weeks. When will that happen? “I really don’t know,” DeWine said. “I think when Dr. Vanderhoff and I talked, maybe two months, but I don’t think he knows and I know that I don’t know.”