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Oxford helps senior residents get vaccinated

Oxford city officials launched a program on March 5 to help elderly residents sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations and to provide transportation to the Butler County Fairgrounds vaccination site.

Jessica Greene, assistant city manager, said she created a hotline at 513-524-5238 after receiving calls for weeks from residents who were confused about the vaccination process. 

Volunteers and city officials sign callers up, and Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA) reserves a number of bus seats each day to bring elderly residents to and from the fairgrounds.

“I said [to the Butler County Health Commissioner], ‘What if we helped to remove barriers to getting people vaccines in Oxford?’” Greene said. “The barriers could be transportation, the lack of confidence with internet, availability of internet or some basic things like people who don’t have printers.”

When the program started, Greene said she expected 10 to 12 calls a day. Instead, they have averaged 200 or more.

“It’s been really rewarding,” Greene said, “but also very surprising how much need has been out there … We have three people here answering the phone, and our phones are ringing nonstop.”

Despite the high volume of calls, relatively few residents have requested transportation. Greene said most have needed help with the sign-up process itself but are wary of public transit and prefer to drive themselves.

Jeanne Glaser is the operations administrator for Oxford Seniors, a senior service organization. Glaser said their local team helps get those who do need transport to and from the bus stop.

“We offer senior transportation in Oxford — we take people to medical appointments, hair appointments,” Glaser said. “It was just a natural partnership with the city because they know we have vans. We transport seniors all the time, so that’s why they reached out to us.”

While Talawanda School District currently operates a vaccination site, Greene said the city hasn’t worked out the logistics with the district yet. When the city tried to send elderly residents there to get their shots, it led to long lines. At the fairground site, though, shots are by appointment, so lines haven’t been a problem.

Greene said the program is in a trial phase for the next three weeks. The calls haven’t tapered off yet, and Ohio recently lowered the age requirement for vaccinations to 50 years old. As vaccine availability continues to increase, though, Greene said the program may not be necessary a month from now.

Glaser said for now, Butler County may keep the age requirement at 60 years and older until demand is met. Even if that changes, Oxford Seniors will continue to provide transportation within Oxford for people who need it.

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“It’s a really great collaborative [effort],” Glaser said. “Between the health department, Butler County Transit, us [and] the city, it was an ideal situation to try and help people who wouldn’t otherwise get access as quickly to the vaccine that they’re getting now.”