WHEELING – West Virginia’s COVID-19 emergency order may end with the start of 2023, but a higher-than-usual number of local residents decided within the last week it was the time to get their first COVID shots.
Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble says the health department most recently saw “maybe” one adult person come in each week to get their first COVID shot.
He estimates in the last week that number jumped to “less than 20.”
“We had a number more than usual over the past week, and it stands out,” Gamble said. “A lot of the vaccinations we are doing are pediatric, or are boosters for people looking to get caught up. But in addition to that, we have a number of people getting their first doses
“It may be a small number, but it has an impact. We just don’t get first doses in that quantity. Maybe you have one coming in for a first dose. When you have that kind of increase, it’s notable.”
There are a number of children getting their first-time COVID shot because they have just become the eligible age to do so, he explained.
“But these are adults and older children,” Gamble said of people getting their first COVID shots. “They are not part of the pediatric group.”
He suspects there are various reasons why people are now wanting to get vaccinated. Many have had illnesses and previously weren’t able to be vaccinated. Others have just come to the decision that it is necessary, or they have been urged by others to get their COVID shot, he continued.
“It’s probably not a huge issue only because as individuals they see spikes in disease, or they just decide it is time,” Gamble said. “That is likely why people are going to come in and get vaccinated.
“There are also individuals who may have put it off. They were sick multiple times, or they may have thought they had natural immunity. Now they think they need to get it. Their family and their physicians are telling them to get it.”
While it may be the holiday season with pending visits to friends and relatives, Gamble indicated that shouldn’t be why some are wanting to get their vaccinations now.
“We try to remind people, it does take two weeks for vaccinations to work,” he said. “If they are coming in now, it’s either because they have the time, or they just remembered they need to do it.
“If they were coming in for the holiday it would have been a week and a half ago.”
Gamble added the request for first-time vaccinations “really doesn’t have any bearing on what we do,” as the health department is equipped to handle the demand.
The health department is the primary source for vaccinations in the area, though some local pharmacies and Wheeling Health Right also provide shots, he added.
The health department carries all the vaccines needed for first-time COVID vaccinations and booster shots. This includes the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The health department continues to see COVID cases, and Gamble encourages the public to take the necessary precautions.
“Wear a mask when you are in large crowds,” he said. “We’re not telling you you have to, but it helps. It’s a good public health measure. And don’t go out if you are having symptoms.”
COVID home tests are available at pharmacies and “are not that expensive,” Gamble added. Some free tests still may be available at the health department, and they are once again available from the federal government.
He encourages individuals to keep some at home.
“To know if you should stay home from school or work is helpful.,” Gamble said. “It can move from one individual to an entire school or workforce, but you can slow it down.
“We will still deal with COVID for quite some time. It’s still raging in parts of the globe. If we are going to control it in the U.S. and the Ohio Valley, we have to practice some public health measures,” he said.