AKRON, Ohio — With Summit County’s large population of seniors and a low number of COVID-19 vaccinations available, it’s no surprise the process has become confusing.

What You Need To Know

  • Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are still low and demand is high so scheduling an appointment to be vaccinated in Summit County is tricky and some cases confusing

  • Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout includes residents 65 and older, school employees in K-12th-grade and people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and those with certain medical conditions

  • Because the vaccine is scarce, the state reworked the list of qualifying medical conditions for Group 1B

  • Summit County Public health wants residents to sign up on its website to receive direct communication based on residents’ ages

During a recent Facebook Live Q&A, Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said Summit County has a higher number of 75-year-olds than most counties, but the number of available vaccines is still low.

Complicating matters, and confusing residents, are qualifiers in the state’s directives about how subgroups within phases 1A and 1B are managed.

Phase 1B, which started Jan. 19, includes residents 65 and older, with 70 and older beginning Monday, and 65 and older beginning Feb. 8.

It also includes people with developmental or intellectual disabilities in addition to a qualifying health condition. Ohio’s list of qualifying health conditions was recently reworked by the state because of the limited supply of vaccinations, and divided into two Phase 1B subsets.

One group became eligible for vaccinations on Jan. 25, and includes those with a developmental or intellectual disability in addition to a qualifying condition, which can include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, severe congenital heart disease, severe type 1 diabetes (requiring hospitalization in past year), inherited metabolic disorders, severe neurological disorders, severe genetic disorders, severe lung disease (requiring hospitalization in past year), sickle cell anemia, alpha and beta thalassemia, and solid organ transplants

Residents with one of those medical conditions who don’t also have developmental or intellectual disability will become eligible for a vaccination  Feb. 15, the state said.

Residents with a developmental or intellectual disability who are actively receiving social services will be contacted to make an appointment, according to the Summit Development Disabilities Board (Summit DD).

If they are not receiving services, residents should contact Summit County Public Health to schedule an appointment at one of the local hospitals or the Summit County Health Department, the Summit DD reports.

Summit County’s approved vaccine providers include health departments, health care centers and hospitals, and specific pharmacies.

Residents with a qualifying medical condition cannot receive a vaccination at one of the approved pharmacies, which include Marc’s, Discount Drug Mart, Acme and Giant Eagle.

In the meantime, the Summit County Health Department is continuing to vaccinate people who qualified in Phase 1A, but have not yet received a first dose.

The state has advised providers to inform anyone in Phase 1A seeking a vaccination to contact their local health department, as the approved pharmacies have been instructed to focus on Phase 1B residents only.

Phase 1A, which started Dec. 14, includes health care workers, EMS and first responders, residents and staff at nursing homes, health care centers and other congregate living facilities, and workers in direct-care facilities, like hospice and kidney dialysis centers.

Employees of K- 12th grade schools are also in Phase 1B and are following a schedule the state recently established in an effort to get students back to in-person classrooms by March 1.

During his COVID-19 update last Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine’s said the state is working on establishing an internet portal that will allow Ohioans in any age group or category to sign up for an appointment online, rather than attempt to sign up on an individual vaccine provider’s website.

To help bring clarity, Summit County Public Health urges residents to sign up on its website to receive direct communication, based on age, including notification if more vaccine becomes available, officials said.

For more information, visit Summit County Public Health website. Those with no internet access can call Summit County’s Public Health COVID-19 Call Line at 330-926-5795.