WHEELING – Ohio County saw a smooth rollout of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine over the last week, being one of the first counties in the state able to offer the vaccine to children as young as 6 months.
The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department began administering the vaccine on June 23, shortly after the vaccine was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Health Administrator Howard Gamble said they were among the first departments to begin distributing the vaccine statewide, and that interest had been constant among patients, both for their kids and themselves.
“It went very smoothly,” Gamble said. “Parents were calling a couple days prior because they saw the national news that the vaccine had been approved, not knowing we needed (further) approval. When we went live, we were one of the few counties in the north to do it, with only a few counties in the state that went live when we did. A lot of counties are just getting their vaccine now to offer.”
Gamble said that certain pharmacies and drugstores in West Virginia are not permitted to administer vaccines to children under certain ages, and advises that parents always call ahead to pharmacies to ensure their children will be able to get their shots. The health department, Gamble added, is able to administer to children of any age.
“It really doesn’t matter to us – we’ll see anyone from any state, and country, they’re eligible to get vaccinated,” Gamble said. “(Pharmacies) can, but … there are requirements for certain pharmacies that they cannot vaccinate younger individuals. Some of them can’t get, and won’t be able to vaccinate children under a certain age.
“It’s really dependent on the state and the pharmacy. … If you go to a pharmacy, call before you go, whether it’s an adult, a pediatric, call. You need to make sure the pharmacy has your vaccine, and they can schedule you in. Most county health departments carry all the vaccines, and it’s usually a walk-in clinic. … If you’re going to go a pharmacy, make sure you call ahead. If not, we have set hours, just make sure you bring a parent if it’s a child, and make sure you bring your (vaccination) card.”
Gamble said that the health department now stocks several varieties of COVID vaccines from different manufacturers and age groups, making it somewhat tricky, though not difficult, to keep on top of.
“We have so many options now, and then you add that onto our other services we’re bringing back online, including children’s (and) adult vaccines, as well as international (vaccines),” Gamble said. “… It’s a little more challenging now as these vaccines begin to come up, that we’re giving the right one, you’re matched correctly with the right one or the series you need to get.”
Gamble said the solution came down to designating separate rooms for COVID vaccines and for all other vaccines.
“It’s more that we want to make sure that we’re doing it correctly, so we got a system that, when an individual comes in, we have a specific exam room for them to get their COVID (vaccine), and at this time we have six different vaccines we can give. We need to keep it straight so the individual gets it correctly, and so we have one room for all the other vaccines that we do.”
The Ohio County Health Department offers walk-in vaccinations from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.