Rural counties mitigate challenges of Phase 1a vaccination roll out

Iowa and Jefferson County are entering the next phase of vaccinating independent healthcare workers.
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 5:14 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2021 at 7:11 PM CST
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DODGEVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - Vaccinating the independent healthcare workers is primarily being done through the county health departments.

For smaller counties, this beginning piece of the vaccination rollout comes with challenges for the health departments.

On Thursday afternoon, Iowa County began the process of vaccinating independent healthcare workers.

Keith Hurlbert, the Iowa County Emergency Management Director, says it’s a daunting task.

“We’re limited to the amount of vaccines that you can get right now, but we’re also limited in our capacity to deliver that because of numbers of people that are available to do that,” said Hurlbert.

He says one of the biggest challenges is figuring out where the funding for the vaccination process is going to come from.

“If there’s no clear path to funding for these types of things, it’s very difficult to put the final touches on your plans as to how you’re going to get this stuff done,” said Hurlbert.

Hurlbert says the small staff at the Iowa County Health Dept. can’t keep up with the demands of COVID-19 and that hiring additional staff members to vaccinate people could help.

“Realizing that the current staff is also doing testing and contact tracing and doing all of those other duties and now we’ve added vaccinations to the same group of people,” Hurlbert added.

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The Jefferson County Health Dept. is not asking for volunteers to help vaccinate at this time, but already people in the county have offered to help.

Epidemiologist Samros Jakvani says they’ve received offers from firefighters, pharmacists, medical students, and retired nurses who’d be willing to administer the vaccine.

Jakvani says public health officials are trying to assess how many doses they’ll have available with those approved to get vaccinated.

“We want to make sure that we’re going through those categories,” said Jakvai. “We want to make sure that we avoid that kind of scramble and that we have a list of folks ready to contact in case we have vaccine to give out.”

Jefferson County is also trying to work the logistics of transporting vaccines to clinic around the county and registering health care providers with the state to receive deliveries of vaccines.

Both Iowa and Jefferson County are not alone in navigating the latest phase of the vaccination rollout.

“72 counties in the state of Wisconsin are dealing with the same issues and the same problems are facing all of us,” said Hurlbert. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a very long tunnel.”

Jakvani says Jefferson County is asking residents to be patient for the general public rollout.

“The vaccine will be available to all that desire it,” said Jakvani. “It will take some time though to make sure we’re doing things right and to avoid chaos.”

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