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Cleveland balancing untested vaccine supply chain with vaccinating as many people as possible

CLEVELAND — While more Americans wait for COVID-19 vaccines, Cleveland and much of Ohio are trying to figure out how those vaccines will reach the majority of the community.

By the end of Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says he expects the city to have administered about 2,000 COVID vaccines from the city’s stockpile of 6,500. Those vaccines are going to Phase 1A individuals, like some first responders, high-risk residents, and medical industry personnel since December 24.

That’s sparked criticism of the city’s plan for using a small percentage of the city’s supply in the first few weeks. Jackson points to an unpredictable supply.

“We’re anticipating that we’ll get a shipment in to accommodate that second vaccine [shot], but if we don’t, we’ll have to use what we do have,” said Jackson on a City of Cleveland Facebook Live press conference.

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Kevin Barry

Mayor Jackson says federal mandates are up to local governments to carry out and lagging vaccine supply keeps those local governments from vaccinating more people faster because they will all need a second dose within three or four weeks.

Another challenge, according to the Mayor, has been guidance and expectations from higher levels of government that they don’t help build the system to meet those targets.

“There are pronouncements made at the federal and state level as to what should be done and then it’s left up to local communities to build an infrastructure to do that,” said the mayor.

Jackson says the City of Cleveland is working through the Phase 1A people but is exploring what to do when someone who is also high-risk still doesn’t fit into the group that is supposed to be vaccinated right now.

“How do you turn people away when they are really eligible but they’re not eligible right now,” said Jackson. “When we have another vaccine, with enough vaccine to meet the demand, then that does not become an issue.”

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Phase 1B rollout

But those issues come as federal agencies are telling local leaders to loosen those restrictions.

“The ACIP and CDC guidelines that came out on vaccinations in the states were never meant to be ‘finish the first phase then move to the second phase, then move to the third,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

The mayor says he agrees with that approach but doesn’t have the vaccine supply to take it.

“What we’re doing is we’re following the mandate of the state and we’re going to do the best we can to ensure as the state mandates categories that we’re able to effectively and efficiently vaccine that category,” said Jackson.

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Kevin Barry

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield telling states that they should start vaccinating as many people older than 65 or with medical conditions that make them high risk as possible and be less concerned about vaccinating only narrow, high-risk populations.

The City of Cleveland is working on developing more vaccine location options, including Public Auditorium downtown, additional remote locations, and mobile units for people who can’t easily travel.

So far, the City does not have a place for residents to sign up to get on a list for those vaccines.

Cuyahoga County is allowing residents to sign up for updates here.

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