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Youngstown City Health District continues coronavirus vaccinations

Next week, the health department plans to travel to other group homes in the city to vaccinate residents and staff.

YOUNGSTOWN — When Joseph Taylor received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine from Youngstown City Health District nurse Theresa Sanchez, he was nervous but excited. 

“I just say go for the vaccine because it means your life,” Taylor said Thursday morning during a vaccination clinic at Eugenia Atkinson Recreation Center.

Taylor is one of the 194 residents of Gateways to Better Living, a group home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and was one of the first residents to get the vaccine.

The home's residents live in groups ranging in size from three to nine people, said program director Karl Ware. Because the coronavirus spreads so quickly in group settings, the residents have been unable to participate in community activities. Visitation is limited to video calls or only one in-person visitor, Ware said.

The facility has not yet established protocol changes for when all residents are vaccinated.

“We will rely on our medical director for anything that we need moving forward,” Ware said.

Taylor said when it’s safe to go out in the community again, he is most excited to go to Barnes and Noble, read a book and sit at the cafe. 

Health Commissioner Erin Bishop said coronavirus cases in the city's congregate care facilities have not drastically increased with the statewide surge in cases. However, it’s important residents of these facilities get the vaccine since they live in such close quarters, she said.

“They’re our most vulnerable population, so we want to take care of them,” Bishop said. 

Youngstown City Health District plans to vaccinate about 160 people this week, including the 40 Youngstown Fire Department firefighters and American Medical Response EMS employees who were vaccinated Wednesday.

Next week, the health department plans to travel to other group homes in the city to vaccinate residents and staff. 

About 300 people are scheduled to receive the vaccine next week, and the health department plans to distribute another 300 doses the week after. 

Bishop said the district expects to finish administering its first 800-dose shipment of the Moderna vaccine by Jan. 15. The health department is also working with Mahoning County Public Health to make sure everyone in the county who is in Phase 1A receives the vaccine. 

Bishop said the department is planning to start vaccinating people in Phase 1B on Jan. 18.