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Where Can You Find COVID-19 Vaccines In The Cleveland Area?

Vaccine demand is greater than supply and a centralized scheduling system is weeks away. Discount Drug Mart is one of Ohio's vaccine providers. This is the home page for their vaccination registration [Discount Drug Mart]
Vaccine demand is greater than supply and a centralized scheduling system is weeks away. Discount Drug Mart is one of Ohio's vaccine providers. This is the home page for their vaccination registration [Discount Drug Mart]

What are your questions about the coronavirus vaccine?

ideastream's health team is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can  send us your questions with our online form, through our social media  group, or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll  keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Currently in Ohio, people 65 years old and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but there’s a lot of confusion. Many people are searching area providers but are finding there's more demand than supply in the Cleveland area.

Listener Zsuzsa Racz is eligible for the vaccine because she is older than 65, but says she can’t find it anywhere. Going through each provider one at a time is time consuming and difficult, she said.

“I am guessing these (providers) all assume that a person over 65 must have all the time on its hands to try and try again for hours to spot a location with a free appointment,” Racz wrote to 90.3 WCPN.

“My situation, which I am sure is more common than unique, is that I should be able to sign up for two persons, my husband and I. But of course with the eligibility requirements that one must put in for each person, I cannot do that for two at the same time, and by the time I manage to put him in, the time slots might already be taken so nothing is left for me,” she said.

Cleveland-area hospitals and Cuyahoga County Board of Health officials say they are also hearing from many people who don’t know how or where to get the COVID vaccine.

Board of Health spokesperson Kevin Brennan said supplies coming to Cleveland are sporadic. He said the strategy that Racz is using is the best one right now. He recommends signing up at multiple locations and see which provider calls back first.

“People sign up with us, and Giant Eagle, and their health provider, which can either be Cleveland Clinic or Metro or UH, so people tend to have their fingers in a lot of pies, and then whoever calls first is obviously where they go,” Brennan said.

Brennan has also heard of the possibility of weather delaying vaccine delivery throughout the country, although for now, Cuyahoga County has enough vaccine to get through next week.

Metro Health has enough vaccines to give second doses to everyone who needs them through March 1.

A Cleveland Clinic spokesperson says right now, demand is greater than supply.

They had more than 80,000 patients 80 years or older and eligible for the vaccine but only had 3,500 vaccines when that age group first opened up several weeks ago. The Cleveland Clinic expects to give out 3,270 vaccines this week.

The state is working on a centralized scheduling tool, but Gov. Mike DeWine said that system is still weeks away from the rollout, which might mean weeks before eligible people can receive a vaccine.

Providers are working through the waitlist now but once they have made the transition to the state’s new scheduling site, the website will go live, DeWine said Wednesday in a news briefing.

When it’s fully operational, Ohioans will be able to find where to get a vaccine in their area and schedule the shot. But DeWine would not give a timeline on how long that will take.

“They’ve got a concept they want to go with, we just have to make sure it works well,” Brennan said.

“At this point, nothing’s happening directly. Meaning, it’s not going to be tomorrow, where we’re all of a sudden in that system. There’s a lot of discussion about how this is going to take place among all the health departments and then to be able to feed into that singular system," he said.

The federal government will increase the number of vaccines it provides to states through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, but those vaccines will go directly to pharmacies.

“These allocations go directly to the Federal Retail Pharmacy partners, which are Rite Aid and Kroger in Ohio,” said Ohio Department of Health spokesperson Megan Smith in an email.

“The vaccine allocation provided for this program is separate from the state’s weekly allocation, and is meant to enhance the current vaccination efforts in states," Smith said.

The supply chain and the different overlapping programs can also lead to confusion over where to get the vaccine, Brennan said.

“I think that’s what’s mystifying to the public,” he said.

“For instance—let’s just say, I go to the CVS in Bedford, and they tell me I’m out, and then my neighbor tells me, ‘Oh yeah, but I went to the Rite-Aid in Warrensville and they gave it to me,” Brennan explained in a hypothetical example. “So that doesn’t make sense to the general public.”

For now, with demand greater than supply and a centralized scheduling system weeks away, the best you can do is sign up where you can, and wait, Brennan said.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158