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WKSU is looking for the answers to the questions you have about Ohio in a project we call "OH Really?" It's an initiative that makes you part of the news gathering process.

Where Can You Get the COVID Vaccine and Are There Any Side Effects to Be Worried About? OH Really?

Summit County Public Health update.jpg
The Summit County Public Health Department and the office of County Executive Ilene Shapiro hosted an online Q&A session about the COVID vaccine. The head of the county's Emergency Management Agency, Thomas Smoot (top left), noted that they're frustrated by the rollout of the vaccine.

Health experts have reported seeing few adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. But WKSU listeners asked our “OH Really?” team about one type of reaction in particular – as well as how to get the vaccine.

A listener from Cuyahoga County who wants to remain anonymous wondered if people have experienced any rash or itching after receiving the COVID vaccine. Dr. Amy Ray is MetroHealth’s medical director for infection protection.

She says some local reactions do occur after any vaccination. And for COVID, “[at] the site where the actual vaccine was injected, there can be some irritation. Generally speaking, that's very mild; particularly with these COVID vaccines, the local -- meaning in the arm -- response has been very manageable and does not affect activities of daily life.”

Ray adds that anyone with underlying conditions or allergies may want to get the vaccine in a clinical setting – as opposed to a drive-thru – so they can be monitored after they get the shot.

Vaccines by age
As of today, the state's distribution plan has opened the vaccine up to people aged 70 and older; that drops to 65 and over next Monday. Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda says there's a little vaccine going to a lot of locations throughout the state.

"When an individual's age group is up, the best thing you can do is identify if you're eligible: ask your physician if you're not sure, and ask them how to go about it," Skoda said. She also says people who have a relationship with a pharmacy could ask them, since they may have received the vaccine.

"On the state website and our website we post where there is vaccine available each week, so typically it's almost like a first come, first serve basis; but that leaves people feeling very left out in defeated. But people should not worry -- we will give to everyone as soon as the vaccine increases, but right now we continue to get smaller amounts."

Skoda says the program to vaccinate people in nursing homes -- staff and patients -- is ongoing, as providers returned to those facilities three times to administer shots.

"If you missed it in those three times, then what you should do is talk to human resources at your nursing home or your administrator. They are making arrangements, because you're always going to be hiring new people [and] have residents who come and go."

What about schools
School personnel in Ohio will be vaccinated starting today. In a live Q&A session last week, Skoda said that for people getting the shot through Summit County Public Health -- whether teachers or residents in the upper age brackets -- the sign-up process may have been unintentionally confusing.

"What we would ask people to do is put your name on a list and then we'll give you information when we get it. We don't really get a lot of warning on when we're going to get stuff, but I think now we have 65,000 names on the list. What we have done -- because vaccine is so limited -- we have opened it up on a day and have sent either a robocall or an email to folks and said, 'we're going to have vaccine on these two clinics. Try to either call us and or get an appointment.' So we have tried to do that. It's been good [because] we've been able to fill our slots and we've worked through all of our community partners. They try to help us sign up individuals who we know do not have technology [or] may not be able to get on a telephone."

Skoda also says requests are outpacing doses.

"We have 13,000 80-plus-year-olds, and we received last week 300 doses. Then we were able to get another 100 from a pharmacy that didn't want it and we were able to get 300 from Summa Health Systems to put our clinic together. And that's all we had. So as you can see, it's a minuscule amount creeping in but we're very hopeful."

The director of Summit County's Emergency Management Agency, Thomas Smoot, agrees. He said "I have heard your frustration about the lack of vaccines and I share them. remain optimistic that the supply chain will only increase with ramped-up production and FDA approval for additional manufacturers' vaccinations."

And late last week, Johnson & Johnson released data on its new vaccine -- a single shot which does not require ultra cold storage -- but is also less effective than the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

“OH Really” is WKSU’s podcast which makes you part of the reporting process. Ask your question now.