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February 2021

Daily vaccination rate increasing in Ohio

More than 1.1 million Ohioans have begun the two-shot vaccination process against COVID-19, just 11 months after the state health department first detected the new coronavirus in Ohio (Source: “Vaccinations speed up in Ohio as the coronavirus recedes,” Ohio Capital Journal, Feb. 11).

An analysis of state data shows the seven-day moving average of the number of Ohioans starting the vaccination process has slowly and steadily risen between the first shots Dec. 14 and early February.

About 30,000 state residents per day are starting the process, according to a seven-day moving average.

State health officials expect this figure to rise as they iron out kinks in a complex and temperature-sensitive supply chain, the two vaccines on the market ramp up production, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine presumably enters the market in the coming weeks.

Biden administration expected to rescind approval for state Medicaid work requirements

The Biden administration is planning today to wipe out one of the core health policies of the Trump era, taking actions that will immediately rescind permission for states to compel poor residents to work in exchange for receiving Medicaid benefits (Source: “Biden administration to move Friday to rescind Medicaid work requirements,” Washington Post, Feb. 11).

Federal health officials will withdraw their predecessors’ invitation to states to apply for approval to impose such work requirements. They also will notify 10 states granted permission, including Ohio, that it is about to be retracted, according to a draft plan obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed by two individuals familiar with the decision, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The actions anticipated Friday, outlined in bullet points in the draft, will come two weeks after President Biden signed an executive order instructing officials to remove barriers to Medicaid coverage. Work requirements enabled under President Donald Trump were the one policy mentioned in Biden’s directive.

HPIO analysis: 1 in 8 Ohio vaccinations lacks data on patient’s race, 1 in 4 lacks ethnicity data

New analysis by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio has found that the race of COVID-19 vaccine recipients is unknown for more than one in eight vaccinations administered in Ohio and ethnicity is unknown in more than one in four.

This lack of data makes it challenging for policymakers to determine whether vaccine efforts are effectively reaching communities of color.

“Complete data collection on race and ethnicity is foundational to end the pandemic,” said Amy Rohling McGee, president of HPIO.” All vaccine providers should be required to ask for this information, and ‘decline to respond’ should be an option for the recipient. Vaccine providers need to explain that the data will be used to make sure that all Ohioans are being reached, especially Ohioans of color who have been disparately impacted by COVID-19.”

Complete data is critical for developing plans for equitable access to vaccines for all Ohioans.

”Data can drive decision-making and ensure that vaccination sites are easy to access and located in communities that have been most impacted,” McGee said. “Evaluation of current and future vaccination strategies requires timely and accurate data.”

Gaps in data have been an ongoing challenge in Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to vaccines, Ohio also has a significant number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths listed as “unknown” for race and ethnicity (see graphic below).


Ohio expects increasing COVID-19 vaccine supply, DeWine says

Ohio can expect to see an increase in doses of the coronavirus vaccine from both Pfizer and Moderna in the coming weeks, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday (Source: “Governor Says Pfizer, Moderna, Boosting Vaccination Supply,” Associated Press via U.S. News, Feb. 4).

Ohio currently receives about 73,000 doses a week from each company, with Moderna expected to increase that amount to about 105,000 next week, the governor said. Pfizer officials have told DeWine that its own weekly supply of 73,000 should grow by about 40% by the middle of February and double by the end of March.

That good news was tempered by a notice from the governor that he repeated again Thursday: Once Ohio begins providing vaccines next week to everyone 65 and older, the state will hold at that level for several weeks because that age group is so large, at about 2 million.

The governor has also made vaccinations for school employees this month a priority ahead of the goal of returning all schoolchildren to in-person learning by March 1.

DeWine budget plan includes boost for public health

Gov. DeWine released his biennial budget proposal Monday and it includes an increase in state spending toward the Ohio Department of Health, with investments in data reporting improvements, addiction services, pregnancy support and addressing social inequities of health care access (Source: “DeWine seeks more state spending for public health causes in Ohio,” Ohio Capital Journal, Feb. 3).

The budget proposal, which outlines funding amounts for all state agencies for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, allocates $25 million toward improving public health data reporting, with a goal to “align” the record systems across the state. There are also continued investments into mental health support systems, nursing home training, lead hazard control and to RecoveryOhio, the state’s program centered on addiction services and harm reduction.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of more accurate and timely health data to improve community health programs and protect Ohio lives,” a budget fact sheet reads.

“One of the long-term goals of our administration is to build up our local health departments,” DeWine said at a Tuesday news conference. “We’ve ignored public health in this country for too long. And if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer afford to underfund public health.”

State lawmakers are now reviewing this proposal and will negotiate budget legislation over the coming months. 

CDC: LGBTQ+ community at greater risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at greater risk of experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19, a new federal report found (Source: “CDC: LGBT community at greater risk to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms,” The Hill, Feb. 4).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Thursday, members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to have underlying health conditions that put them at an increased risk to contract the coronavirus and experience severe symptoms of the disease.

The report used data from the 2017-2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a collection of health surveys that gathers demographic and health-related information from noninstitutionalized U.S. residents over the age of 18 to determine health disparities. 

The report adds that racial and ethnic minority groups who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community are at an increased risk of experiencing severe coronavirus symptoms compared to their heterosexual counterparts. In addition, members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to experience discrimination and stigmatization that may increase their risk of illness and limit their access to proper health care, according to the agency.