PREBLE COUNTY — Despite widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability for ages 16 and up since late March, Preble County’s first dose vaccination rate is lagging behind the rest of the state and country.
Nationally, 56.4 percent of U.S. residents have received their first dose, and 49.2 percent of Ohioans have received their first dose, ranking 36th among the states.
In Preble County, 33.12 percent of residents have received their first dose, falling 77th among Ohio’s 88 counties according to Ohio Department of Health data. Preble County Health Commissioner Erik Balster says the vaccination rate is between 33 and 37 percent, with the discrepancy attributed to residents receiving vaccinations in other states or counties.
Delaware County leads the way with 62.88 percent of their residents receiving the first dose, while Holmes County, at just 15.39 percent, ranks last.
Neighboring Montgomery County (19th, 46.34 percent) and Butler County (21st, 45.89 percent) rank in the top quarter of the state, while Darke County (81st, 31.66 percent) ranks near the bottom. All data is as of Thursday, July 15.
Regarding the low vaccination rate, Balster said one reason is the lack of vaccination sites, at least relative to other Ohio counties.
“We got CVS and Walgreens and other places to start giving it here, but that was much later into the vaccine drive, so I think a lot of people who were going to get it early or wanted it during the height of the whole vaccine campaign early on probably were a little bit deterred by that, so maybe some have held off since as well,” he said.
Additionally, Balster said the decline in cases since the vaccine became available could be having an impact. Since the vaccine was made available to everyone age 16 and up on March 29, 2021, Preble County has seen 287 total cases.
“As cases kind of have declined over the summer – though there is a slight increase at the moment – I think some people felt that maybe perhaps it wasn’t necessary any longer due to the case rates dropping,” he said. “I think I think it’s probably a combination of those things.”
Public Health is encouraging those with questions or concerns to talk with their primary care physician.
“They’re really a great asset to anyone and have good answers,” Balster said.
He added that Public Health will expect an increase in vaccinations once one of the COVID-19 vaccines becomes FDA approved. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are authorized under emergency use authorization, which is a “mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies,” according to the FDA.
“I think the the notion that it’s emergency use for these vaccines probably gives some people some pause,” Balster said. “You know, I think when one of these does become fully authorized, I think you’ll probably see a lot of people get that and simply because they’ll feel that is more rigorously tested and validated.”
For those still looking to get vaccinated, Balster said there is an upcoming Back to School clinic taking place at Eagles Point on Tuesday, Aug. 10 from 3-8 p.m. Sign-ups will be available but walk-ins will also be welcome.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles