by CHRIS ROGERS
COVID vaccinations continued in Winona County this week. While the distribution has moved more slowly in some areas than initially planned, more and more of Winona’s most vulnerable and most crucial personnel began gaining antibodies to the virus and protection from serious illness.
Winona Health leaders reported that they are roughly halfway through vaccinating hospital staff. Vaccinations of Winona Health nursing home staff and residents are ongoing, they said. Winona Health received around 775 doses of the Pfizer vaccine before Christmas — the hospital is the only organization in the area with the super-cold freezers needed for the Pfizer vaccine — and recently received an additional 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Winona County Public Health also received shipments of the Moderna vaccine just before Christmas and began inoculating emergency medical staff, including the paramedic-firefighters of the Winona Fire Department and Winona Police Department patrol officers. Most law enforcement and firefighters are slated to receive vaccines later on, further down the priority list, but Winona’s finest were included because of their emergency medical training, Winona County Emergency Management Director Ben Klinger said. Emergency medical staff are near the top of the vaccine distribution priority list set by state and federal authorities. Winona firefighters will also be aiding the county in giving vaccines in upcoming inoculation drives in Lewiston, Goodview, and Pickwick, and other rural cities next week, Klinger said.
Although nursing home staff and residents are at the very top of the priority list, many local nursing homes have not begun their shots yet because of the different channels federal and state authorities have used to get shots to them. However, local nursing homes expect to begin vaccinations very soon.
Sauer Health Care’s Sara Blair said her facility will begin vaccinations on January 6 and have been assured there will be enough doses for all residents and staff. Benedictine Living Community - Winona Executive Director Carol Ehlinger said that for her community’s skilled nursing facility, vaccinations will begin December 31, with roughly 290 doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for all eligible staff and residents.
Winona Police Department Patrol Officer Bridget Klinger received her shot on Tuesday. “I want to go to concerts again, so hopefully this will get us moving toward that,” she said.
Winona Fire Department Assistant Chief Joel Corcoran administered shots to his staff this week. “I’m very happy we’re starting it before the beginning of the new year,” he stated. “The vaccine is our ticket out of this,” he added.