Douglas County Health Officer Breaks Down Vaccine Efforts As Eligibility Expands Next Week

Douglas County Health Officials look to add to the more than 19,000 people in the county who’ve already gotten one dose.

SUPERIOR, Wis.- Starting next Monday, Wisconsinites 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Now Douglas County Health Officials look to add to the more than 19,000 people in the county who’ve already gotten one dose.

“With eligibility opening up to Wisconites next week, especially with the holiday weekend upon us, we need folks to be as diligent as ever,” said Governor Tony Evers.

Just last week Douglas County started vaccinating other groups such as people with disabilities, and those 16 and older who have underlying health conditions.

Despite the increased eligibility, those 65 and older and healthcare workers are still top priority and will be first in line even next week.

“It’s not a big deal. It really doesn’t hurt. In fact a blood test is more painful,” said Holly McLean.

McLean received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Government Center in Superior — the final line of defense to protect her against coronavirus. “It’s been a long year.”

“It’s going fast,” McLean said. “Pretty soon everybody will be [vaccinated], y’know? And the more people that get the shots the better, y’know, everything’s gonna be good.”

According to Douglas County Health Officer Kathy Ronchi, they’ve given upward of 600 people a shot twice a week.

So she said they’re comfortable with Gov. Tony Evers announcing everyone in Wisconsin will be eligible next week.

“I feel good about this expansion in eligibility,” said Ronchi. “However, eligibility doesn’t mean availability. So while everybody will be eligible starting next Monday, we won’t necessarily have the vaccine to accommodate everybody.”

Ronchi also advises against “shopping around” for a single-dose vaccine like Johnson and Johnson — because that may lose them any shot at a shot.

“We don’t have a choice in what vaccine that we get,” she said. Clinics are gonna go away if there’s no call for vaccine. So people who are waiting they may find their options are gonna be very limited in the future.

Newly graduated health or nursing students as well as retired nurses run this clinic.

Pfizer also requires an EMT on hand to help with anyone experiencing side effects.

“They are doing their part to get us back to when we were before this pandemic,” said Superior Fire Department Capt. Joe Tribbey. “And it’s really cool to be part of that to watch them work and to have the ability to be a small part of that.”

Others getting the shots can’t wait for normal again with their own family. “Mostly just so I could feel safe seeing my elderly family members,” said Megan Severin, getting her second shot.

“My Grandma, a long time,” she said. “We haven’t been in the same house for a year so it’d be nice to get back to that.”

Mayor Jim Paine got a shot Tuesday, as he was among those next on the waitlist after someone did not show up for their scheduled appointment.

Increased vaccinations are also a relief for the first responders who jump into any situation regardless of their health or others.

“There is always that little back, in the back of your mind, ‘are we bringing something home, are able to make sure that we’re not bringing anything home?’ The fact that more people are getting vaccinated really does make our job easier,” said Capt. Tribbey.

But Ronchi also says COVID cases are starting to creep up to around 38 more cases a week — so increased eligibility isn’t the be all end all.

“While vaccine is still available, it’s only available to people 16 and older so we still have to protect those school-aged children and keep them in school,” she said.

So those at the clinic ask people to keep hanging on for a little longer and get the vaccine to help their whole community.

“You just have to look at the other people that you care about that are maybe not as high-risk for it and maybe do it for them if you don’t really want to get it yourself,” said Severin.

Ronchi says a community clinic will be opening in a couple weeks run in cooperation with the state and UWS.

Those health officials and the governor say despite the good news, and the fact the current vaccines have proven effective against most variants, people still need to keep wearing masks regardless if they got a shot. You can still get the virus and pass it.

“COVID-19 is still in our communities,” Ronchi said.

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