MOUNT VERNON – One in four Knox County residents are now at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Nearly 16,000 residents have received at least one dose, the ODH reported Sunday, making up 25 percent of the county's population. Roughly 11,000 residents, or 18 percent, are fully vaccinated.
“Our rates are really good," Knox County Health Commissioner said in a Facebook Live briefing last week.
Miller seemed especially proud of the county's effort to vaccinate its most vulnerable citizens. All 82 of Knox County's COVID-19 fatalities (and the vast majority of its hospitalizations) have involved residents age 50 or older. Now, well over half of that population is at least partially immune from the virus.
“That’s really exciting ..." Miller said. “Overall, we’ve done a really good job of vaccinating our most at-risk residents ... We’re pretty pleased with that and proud of the fact that we’ve been able to do that.”
Knox County's vaccination rate ranks 65th out of Ohio's 88 counties, which range from 11 percent (Holmes County) to 39 percent (Ottawa County), according to a Knox Pages analysis of state data. It ranks higher than five of the county's seven neighbors (Coshocton, 68th; Richland, 69th; Morrow, 76th; Ashland, 82nd; and Holmes, 88th), and lower than two (Delaware, 2nd; and Licking, 35th).
Roughly 32 percent of Ohioans have received at least one vaccine dose, which matches the national vaccine rate, according to the CDC.
Ohio's vaccine rollout began Dec. 14, 2020. Given the limited supply, only frontline health care professionals, nursing home residents and staff, emergency personnel, and residents with developmental disabilities or mental health disorders were initially eligible for inoculation.
Just one percent of Knox County's population had received the vaccine to begin 2021.
But supply from the federal government started to increase in the coming weeks, allowing Gov. Mike DeWine to expand vaccine eligibility. Knox Public Health began holding appointment-only vaccination clinics for senior citizens in late January, and by the end of the month, six percent of the county had received at least one shot.
Knox County's vaccinated population doubled in February, as more of its most vulnerable citizens and frontline workers (including K-12 professionals) were inoculated. It doubled again in March, going from 12 to 24 percent, as DeWine began to unlock younger age groups. By the end of the month, anyone age 16 or older was eligible to receive a shot.
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine still outpaces supply, according to local health officials. Most of the health department's recent vaccination clinics have featured long lines, KPH spokeswoman Pam Palm said, at least at the beginning. Residents of all ages have lined up 20 or 30 minutes early to receive a shot.
“Right now, we haven’t experienced where somebody’s saying, ‘No, we don’t want it.' ..." Palm said in an interview March 18. “We haven’t seen a real push-back yet," she continued. We haven’t gotten to a point where we have 100 doses left over at the end of a clinic.”
Knox Public Health has administered all 12,000-plus doses it has received, Palm said. None have been wasted.
Infectious disease experts predict 70 to 80 percent of the population will need to obtain COVID-19 antibodies (whether through vaccination or infection) to achieve "herd immunity," where the virus runs out of viable hosts.
Until that happens, Miller said continuing mitigation efforts will be crucial to preventing another surge. Cases and hospitalizations have begun to rise again over the last two weeks, and Miller urged residents Tuesday to keep their guard up.
“The reason (restrictions) are still in-place is because we’re still trying to contain this virus, and we’re starting to see increases in some areas. So please still be mindful of the guidance – masking, hand-washing, (social distancing). I repeat it over and over again ..." Miller said.
“We’re so close – and that’s my frustration. We’re so close. If we can continue to vaccinate, and we can be kind and conscientious about wearing a mask and washing our hands, we can make this happen where we can have these restrictions lessened."