COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Monday he was thrilled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to fully authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and also said there are no more excuses for eligible Ohioans not to get vaccinated.
“This action by the FDA validates the confidence of so many physicians, scientists and public health experts in the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine,” said Vanderhoff.
Vanderhoff also reported Monday the state is approaching nearly 300 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents during a two-week period due to the delta variant. Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, originally removed the statewide mask mandate because that number was inching closer to dipping below 50.
“It’s really been quite dramatic. We went back to the beginning of July, we were as low as a little bit north of 17,” Vanderhoff said.
Those increases include cases for kids. Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus had 12 children with COVID-19 in the hospital as of Monday morning with three in the ICU. A couple weeks ago, a total of three children were in the hospital with the virus.
“These aren’t all children who have underlying medical conditions,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rustin Morse. “In other words, COVID can affect children, does affect children and they do end up having to be hospitalized sometimes in critical condition.”
Health officials have said COVID-19 is not the only current concern for kids. Hospitals around the state are seeing a unique increase in other respiratory viruses they said they do not typically see until the winter such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The early spike and timeline have been thrown off due to last year’s COVID-19 restrictions, masking and distancing.
“If we follow the trajectory of some of our southern neighbors, which we don’t want to do but if we do, we could be in a very dangerous position with regards to caring for the children of Ohio,” said Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, chief of staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Vanderhoff would not say DeWine should reinstitute a mask mandate. He also stopped short of saying a vaccine should be required or that Ohioans should think twice about sending kids back into schools.
“There’s no reason for our students not to be returning to school,” Vanderhoff said. “There’s every reason for us to resume in-person education. And at the end of the day, no mandate is going to be able to have an impact without the people of Ohio being behind the measures.”
Vanderhoff added he is encouraged the number of Ohioans age 12 and older starting the process of being vaccinated is close to 60%.