Ohio State town hall answers COVID-19 vaccine questions
University leadership begins monthly sessions to inform community
Leaders of The Ohio State University spent more than an hour Monday night updating the university community about the timing, safety and availability of COVID-19 vaccines.
It was the first in a series of virtual town halls scheduled for the first Monday of each month through April. Led by President Kristina M. Johnson, the town hall featured remarks from Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron, Executive Vice President and Chancellor for Health Affairs Harold L. Paz, Wexner Medical Center Chief Clinical Officer Andrew Thomas and other university leaders. Teresa Long, special adviser of community engagement and partnership in the College of Public Health and former Columbus health commissioner, moderated the discussion.
“When will the broad population of The Ohio State University faculty, staff and students get the vaccine?” Long asked to lead off the question-and-answer session. It was the most popular question of the dozens submitted before and during the town hall.
Thomas said vaccinating all eligible people in the Phase 1B priority group could take vaccination sites around the state until April. That phase, established by the State of Ohio under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health, includes people over the age of 65, patients with certain severe congenital and developmental disorders, and teachers and employees working in K-12 schools.
Thomas said the state is receiving 100,000 doses per week and that demand continues to outstrip supply. As manufacturing increases and more vaccines receive safety approval, he expects that will change.
“I think the eventual goal would be that this will become like the flu shots. As we get more supplies, it could be just as easy to get it at the CVS down the street from your house or your advanced nurse or general practitioner that you see,” Thomas said.
Johnson said making sure students, faculty and staff receive the vaccine in a timely manner is something she discusses every day. She pointed to the university’s student testing and tracing program and the Schottenstein Center’s group vaccination site as success stories showing Ohio State’s ability to scale up to slow the spread of the virus.
Questions were asked about new mutations of the virus discovered at Ohio State and around the nation and the ability of the vaccine to work against those mutations. University leadership reinforced the importance of continuing to use all public safety measures to combat the virus.
Johnson, Paz and McPheron reminded the university community that wearing masks, appropriate physical distancing and proper hygiene remain the best available ways to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19.
“It all comes back to this notion, and everybody has hit home on it, that this means that we need to be vigilant about the many layers of protection that we do have,” said College of Public Health Dean Amy Fairchild. “The vaccination doesn’t replace all of these other layers, at least in this stage of the epidemic. It’s another powerful, important layer that’s effective in preventing symptomatic disease, and that’s going to be part of the solution to ultimately bringing the virus, the pandemic, to extinction.”
The town hall ran over the scheduled time and leadership continued to answer questions. Long said the university will continue gathering and answering questions on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website. The site will also host recordings of each town hall.