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Ohio Colleges To Host Mass Vaccination Clinics As COVID-19 Rates Rise

Vaccinating college students before May 1 will be the state's next priority group in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. [Mary Fecteau / ideastream]
Kent State University campus

Ohio college students can get the COVID-19 vaccine on campus starting next week, Gov. Mike DeWine said during a Thursday press conference.

The state first focused on Ohio’s oldest residents, progressively expanding eligibility until opening it up this week to anyone 16 and older. Focusing specifically on this younger population and catering to college students on campus, DeWine said, will decrease spread.

"While fewer of our young people get sick, the evidence clearly shows that they are significant carriers," DeWine said.

He said the state will continue to work toward providing the vaccine to people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases are increasing throughout the state, particularly in the northern part of Ohio because of an outbreak in Michigan, according to data presented by DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

Variants of the virus contributed to the recent increase, but vaccines can help control the outbreak, Vanderhoff said.

"We can win this race as long as we don’t falter," he said.

Right now, the state is averaging about 167 cases per 100,000 residents. That’s up from last week when the rate was just under 147 cases per 100,000 residents.


Daily New Confirmed & Probable COVID-19 Cases In Ohio

The increase brings the state further away from the benchmark DeWine set to remove health orders like the mask mandate, which he has said he will do when the state’s average is 50 cases per 100,000 residents.

"We were headed in the right direction for a long time, but now they’ve started to go back up," DeWine said.

He said the mass vaccinations at college campuses will help to control this spread. He said some of the larger campuses may take a few weeks to vaccinate everyone who wants it, but the goal is to be done with vaccinations by May 1, before many colleges will end their spring semester.

"No one is going to force anyone to get the vaccine, but I think doing it on the college campus is convenient for the students," he said.

The state has been working with colleges over the last week to prepare for the mass vaccinations, and they will use Johnson & Johnson brand vaccine, which only requires one shot.

DeWine said he thinks when students see their friends get the shot, it will encourage them to get it.

He said he'd like to use the same strategy for other populations, such as employees. Starting the week of April 12, vaccine providers will be able to use 25 percent of vaccine supply to offer mass vaccination events for employees, DeWine said.  

Those providers can also partner with other businesses and organizations to offer what DeWine called vaccination "pods".

If any provider wants to use more than 25 percent of their supply on these pods, they can work with the state to increase that number, the governor said.

DeWine said he hopes making it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine and having people see their friends, coworkers, and classmates get it will increase the rate of acceptance, but no one will be required to get it.

Ohio’s vaccine program has directed supply into areas where there are higher populations and greater demand, DeWine said. But he said they will now start to focus efforts on bringing vaccines into places where there are spikes in infection.

To find out more about where the nearest mass vaccination site is, go to the state’s website, coronavirus.ohio.gov/massvaccinationclinics.

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