When a limited allotment of COVID-19 vaccine recently became available to Rusk County, health officials hurried to call residents who had registered and qualified for the shots.
Rusk County Public Health and Rusk County Emergency Management hosted a coronavirus disease vaccination clinic at the Ladysmith Fire Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The vaccination clinic distributed Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations, and was limited to individuals designated in the “1A Population” that includes health care workers and long-term care staff and residents and also eligible individuals in the “1B Population” that includes fire and law enforcement and residents 65 years old and older.
Overall, 100 individuals were given a COVID-19 vaccination during the county’s first clinic. Immediately after receiving the vaccination, individuals were monitored for 15 minutes by the Rusk County EMTs.
Tony resident Elmer Wisherd, 100, got a shot. He wasn’t worried.
“I was looking forward to it,” said Wisherd, a World War II veteran who flew over French beaches during the D-Day invasion.
Wisherd enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked as a C-47 crew chief in the European Theater as part of the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron. He was involved in seven major battles, including the airborne assault during Operation Overlord (D-Day), where his plane dropped paratroopers into Normandy. Wisherd said his children, nieces and nephews kept calling and urging him to get vaccinated when it became available.
“They are pretty happy about me getting it,” Wisherd said.
Wisherd said he supports the vaccination efforts. He is feeling no ill effects from the shot.
“I figured what the heck. I thought it was the proper thing to do,” Wisherd said.
The demand for vaccine in the county is currently greater than supply, according to County Health & Human Services Director Jeremy Jacobs.
“Throughout this pandemic, our local partners have graciously helped us accomplish our goal in preventing further spread of COVID-19. We could not have done it without our local partners,” Jacobs said.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 947 Rusk County residents, 6.7 percent, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the lowest in the state. The state DHS reports 232 Rusk County residents, 1.6 percent, have completed the vaccine series, also the lowest in the state.
Overall, DHS reports 12.3 percent of all state residents have received at least one dose and 4.1 percent have completed the vaccine series.
COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed to Wisconsin residents in a phased approach. Vaccine supply is limited and vaccinations are targeted to specific groups of people with a higher risk for COVID-19 infection.
Two COVID-19 vaccines have been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the Food & Drug Administration, one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and one produced by Moderna.
Rusk County Public Health continues to operate within the guidelines to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible groups as indicated by the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee and Wisconsin Department of Health Services, according to Jacobs.
Currently, frontline health care workers, police and fire personnel and people 65 years and older are eligible to receive the vaccination.
Rusk County Public Health is approved as a COVID-19 vaccinator with the state program and will continue to work with community medical partners to offer the vaccination as supply is allocated.
“In a collaborative effort, the goal is to get shots in arms of those that desire the vaccine in the county,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs believes the vaccine rollout is just beginning to ramp up.
“As the population groups become eligible to receive the vaccine, we anticipate many will sign up with their providers, with pharmacy programs and with the Public Health Department,” Jacobs said.
Rusk County Emergency Management Director Tom Hall called the Feb. 10 vaccine clinic turnout a good showing. He noted more than 200 people had pre-registered for the vaccine.
“We were lucky enough to have 100 doses of vaccine, and more than 100 people signed up. They all showed up to take the vaccine, and we had no ill effects during our clinic, so that was good,” Hall said. “All the people who were there wanted the vaccine. No one was forcing them to get it.”
Hall added most fire, EMS and law enforcement are choosing to get their vaccines through a private healthcare provider.
When the county learns it is getting more vaccine, county health staff begin calling people on the registration list. Officials strongly encourage anyone interested in the COVID-19 vaccination to sign up.
County health officials have received positive feedback from those being vaccinated, Jacobs added.
“We would encourage everyone to talk with their primary care provider to discuss if the vaccine is right for them,” Jacobs said. “Our staff are very grateful to receive the vaccine and are happy to be able to be more protected as we go forward and protect the community.”
County health officials continue to ask the community to be patient as vaccine demand outweighs supply. They continue to submit vaccine requests with the state to meet requests from the population.
“We would like to extend a sincere thank you to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Rusk County Emergency Government, Ladysmith Fire Department and other individuals who made this [clinic] possible,” Jacobs said.
Rusk County Public Health plans on hosting additional vaccination clinics as shots become available to the department. For the latest up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 vaccine recipient eligibility, refer to the Rusk County Public Health’s Facebook page and the COVID-19 vaccination page of the Rusk County website.
The second dose for the Feb. 10 clinic is already scheduled for 4 weeks after that date.
A second clinic for the first dose with 200 vaccines available is slated for sometime this week between Feb. 15-19. County health officials are calling those who registered in advance.
If you are interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine with Rusk County Public Health the following are options to get enrolled:
1) Please complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/H5LCKJN
2) You can also call 715-532-2218 and provide the following information
a. Full Name.
b. Date of Birth.
c. Telephone Number.
d. Category of phase you are included in.
Notify Rusk County Public Health at 715-532-2218 if you are on the COVID-19 vaccine waitlist but have received the vaccine from another source.