COLUMBUS - Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, MBA, and Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) Director Ursel J. McElroy are urging Ohioans to give themselves maximum protection from the virus by staying up to date with vaccinations, including the updated booster.
Dr. Vanderhoff noted that although case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID have thankfully not reached levels seen over the past two winters, the fact remains that about 2,500 Americans and 90 Ohioans are dying each week. Also, much of the nation is now seeing a rise in a new, highly contagious variant known as XBB.1.5.
In particular, he warned that those who are 65 and older – as well as those who are immunocompromised or have certain chronic conditions – are at greater risk for serious illness or death if they have not received the updated booster, which targets the more recent Omicron subvariants.
Data shows that almost four out of five (79%) Ohioans who have died of COVID have been 65 and older. While 86.9% of that population is fully vaccinated (1.77 million people), unfortunately only 38% have the maximum protection of an updated booster (776,000).
That means more than 1.2 million older Ohioans are unvaccinated or not up to date with the booster that was made available in September.
“Based on the numbers, we have not given ourselves every advantage that we could,” Dr. Vanderhoff said. “Many of these deaths are, sadly, preventable.”
ODH recently debuted a public-service announcement aimed at promoting boosters. The ad is appearing on television, radio, social media and on billboards. It can be viewed on the department’s YouTube channel.
Dr. Vanderhoff noted that while the vaccines deliver strong cellular immunity crucial to fighting off COVID-19, even that immunity can wane over time, especially as we age. The updated COVID-19 vaccine can provide a much-needed boost to that immunity.
“At the start of each new year, many of us resolve to take steps to improve our health, so I hope that more Ohioans will consider getting vaccinated or boosted,” Dr. Vanderhoff said. “That clearly is the safest, most reliable way you can reduce your risk of serious illness, hospitalization or even death as a result of the COVID-19 virus.”
Ohioans can search for locations offering the COVID-19 vaccine at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Older Ohioans or their caregivers seeking more information about vaccination can call 1-866-243-5678 to connect to the local Area Agency on Aging serving their community.
“We know that the number of cases in our communities can accelerate very quickly, especially during the winter months when people are mostly gathering indoors,” Director McElroy said. “All of the data that we have today shows that the people most severely affected by COVID-19 continue to be older Ohioans. The data also shows that being fully vaccinated with the updated booster reduces your risk for a serious outcome.
“The Ohio Department of Aging, in partnership with local agencies, has worked hard throughout the pandemic to eliminate barriers to vaccine access for older Ohioans, whether they are living in the community or a long-term care facility,” Director McElroy added. “Should you or a loved one need information about the vaccine or how to access it, we are here to help.”
About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging serves and advocates for the needs of Ohioans age 60 and older, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. Programs include home and community based long-term supports and services, as well as initiatives to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
About ODH - The Ohio Department of Health’s mission is advancing the health and well-being of all Ohioans by transforming the state’s public health system through unique partnerships and funding streams; addressing the community conditions and inequities that lead to disparities in health outcomes; and implementing data-driven, evidence-based solutions.