‘Moment of hope’: Ohio begins to vaccinate frontline workers


This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The first vaccines against the coronavirus arrived in Ohio Monday morning as a national rollout got underway, with front-line medical workers the first to receive doses.

“Today is the day we’ve been waiting for,” said Gov. Mike DeWine, who was joined by his wife, Fran DeWine, and Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson, to watch a box of 975 doses delivered to Ohio State medical in a UPS truck around 9:30 a.m.

The University of Cincinnati medical center also received the same amount and vaccinated 20 people, with eight more hospitals around the state to receive additional doses Tuesday. Initial vaccinations will start in nursing homes on Friday, DeWine said.

The hospitals receiving doses this week include Cleveland Clinic and Ohio Health Riverside Hospital in Franklin County, among others. DeWine said these locations were picked first based on geography, population and access to vaccine storage capacity.

The state is on track to receive another 650,000 doses in January and continue to receive the same amount for the coming months, DeWine said.

With a command of “3, 2, 1” from Elizabeth Seely, chief administrator of Ohio’s State’s hospitals, the first vaccines were administered in a large room where recipients sat spaced apart at conference tables. Thirty medical practitioners in regular contact with COVID-19 patients, including doctors and nurses, received the first of the 975 doses the university received Monday.

“It feels good to be part of progress,” said recipient Dr. Mercy Dickson, a third-year resident who sees multiple COVID-19 patients daily in her practice. For Dickson, 35, the day had special significance as she hopes her experience–she is Black, born in the U.S. and raised in Nigeria before returning to the states–will positively experience people skeptical of the vaccine.

“For me, the excitement comes from hoping that maybe someone who looks like me sees me getting my vaccine and is encouraged to get their own vaccine as well,” she said.

Registered nurse Stacey Boyer experienced minimal discomfort receiving the shot but said that emotionally she felt a lot of relief.

“I know the vaccine was produced in record time, but it feels like it’s been a very long year for us working in the hospital,” Boyer said.

Ohio State clinical pharmacist Kelli Barnes, wearing a face shield and mask, helped deliver the vaccines Monday. She said it was exciting for her “to give the vaccine to people who’ve been putting their own health at risk to take care of people.”

The first round of vaccinations Monday followed the worst week on record for Ohio as far as virus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. DeWine warned residents that while it is a joyous day, the state is still far from reaching the herd immunity required to curb infections.

“In this great day of happiness and celebration, I do not want anyone to forget the reality,” DeWine said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 9,002 new cases per day on Nov. 29 to 12,529 new cases per day on Dec. 13, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.


Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.