CINCINNATI - Ohioans age 40 and older now can receive a COVID-19 vaccination, and health leaders say anyone who's eligible should not delay.
Dr. O'dell Moreno Owens, president and chief executive of Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-based foundation focused on improving health, said he's heard a lot of speculation comparing the safety and effectiveness of the three available vaccines - from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Owens said he thinks Ohioans should take whichever one is offered, because delaying leaves people at risk of illness or death.
"When I got my first shot, I had a sense of relief. The second shot was a sense of freedom," he said. "I know that I'm not going to be hospitalized with COVID and that I may die of many things, but I'm not going to die of COVID."
More than a half-million Americans, including nearly 18,000 Ohioans, have died of coronavirus complications. Owens suggested discussing the benefits and risks of the vaccine with a trusted medical professional.
On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine expanded vaccine eligibility to include people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease and obesity. Nearly one-fifth of all Ohioans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and the state soon will ramp up availability with mass vaccination sites. Owens said these efforts are crucial since the virus is still out there.
"COVID is not going to go away; it may turn out to have more of a seasonal approach for a while," he said. "The faster we can get the population vaccinated, we'll slow the spread — and when you slow the spread, you slow the mutations."
Owens said all brands of the COVID vaccine have been through rigorous safety studies. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use breakthrough technology of "messenger RNA," which he said creates immunity essentially by giving the body's cells instructions, like a computer code. He predicted it will change science forever.
"This ability to create a structure of DNA to control the cells - wow, what hope does that have for cancer? What hope does that have for other diseases? It's going to open a whole new door in how we approach diseases and other medical conditions," he said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine differs, using a modified version of a different virus to carry immunity instructions into the body.