Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM) building

The Athens City-County Health Department and Ohio University are collaborating to create a primary site for vaccine administration at The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, the University announced last week.

Beginning in January, Phase 1a vaccine recipients can receive the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at the recently-opened Heritage Hall on W. Union Street, the new facility for The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, an Ohio University release states.

“The Athens City-County Health Department has been a critical alliance throughout the pandemic to keep our community safe,” Ohio University President Duane Nellis said in the release. “We are so pleased to offer space in our new state-of-the-art medical facility to roll out vaccines in Athens.”

The release states Heritage Hall was selected because of its location, size, and parking availability.

HCOM Executive Dean Kenneth Johnson said in the release that using the College’s new building for vaccines fits the purpose – innovative medical research and community outreach.

“I can think of no better way to christen our building than utilizing it as part of the historic efforts to eradicate the global pandemic,”Johnson said.

Immunizations against the coronavirus began in Athens on Dec. 18, 2020 when a pilot group of medical workers received the first doses at O’Bleness Hospital, The Messenger previously reported.

The hospital was chosen as one of the first ten in the state to receive the vaccine. The vaccine is currently being offered to front-line workers, dentists, and those living in certain congregate care facilities.

In late December, the Health Department received 500 total doses of the Moderna vaccine, 190 of which were immediately given to Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, a psychiatric hospital for mentally ill adults in southeast Ohio.

Jack Pepper, administrator of The Athens City-County Health said the department has administered 262 doses of the vaccine, and expects to use all the remaining supply of immunizations by the end of the week.

The City-County Health Department will not receive any new doses of the vaccine until at least Jan. 11, Pepper said.

Pepper said the biggest challenge with rolling out immunizations is the low supply of doses provided to the department.

“We have been allocated a very limited amount of vaccine and anxiously await a time when it is more readily available,” Pepper said in an email.

The Athens City-County Health Department previously operated a clinic at the Athens Community Center, which Pepper said was successful. Once more vaccines become available for Athens County, Pepper said he wants to expand the days the vaccine clinic is offered.

Moderna’s vaccine was granted emergency use authorization late in December by the Food and Drug Administration and has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19-related illness in patients.

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