County ramps up for additional vaccine clinics

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Dubois County is about to receive more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I got a call yesterday from the state saying they may have a large amount of vaccine that they need to get pushed out,” Shawn Werner, administrative director of the Dubois County Health Department, told the Dubois County Commissioners Tuesday.

With those coming doses, the number of vaccine appointments will increase and the number of workers dispensing the medicine will need to increase, he explained.

The health department is planning a vaccine clinic for this Saturday and on Saturday, Jan. 30. The scheduling for those clinics has not yet opened, Werner said.

“We’re doing a mass vaccination,” he said, “probably 1,000 or so shots in one day. So we’re going to need additional help for that as well.

“I’ve got to get this done.”

Werner requested that he be allowed to hire nurses and health clerks to work in temporary positions to help administer the vaccine. They will be paid through a state grant the county has received, he said.

Werner has a list of about 60 people who would be available and willing to work. He would bring in workers as needed, based on the vaccine schedules and the nurses’ availability. Many of the workers are already employed at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center or doctors’ offices, Werner said. Some are also retired nurses.

But county officials must sign off on allowing them to work, which is a multi-step process.

The commissioners did their part by agreeing to allow as many temporary part-time positions as needed and can be paid for through the state grant until that funding is depleted. They also agreed to waive the urinalysis test requirement so that they can start as quickly as possible.

“I think that may help speed the process a little bit,” Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said. “If we need to bring however many people we can bring in to do the work, we’re happy to support that.”

The Dubois County Council must set the rate of pay for the positions and approve the salary ordinances to pay the workers. The council will hear of the need when it meets on Monday. Werner is looking to pay the nurses $20 per hour and the clerks $15 per hour. He said the workers on his list have agreed to that amount.

“A lot of them just want to help the community,” Werner said.

County Auditor Sandy Morton reminded everyone that the workers must finish the necessary steps required for employment, which include paperwork. They can volunteer; but to be compensated, the paperwork needs to be completed beforehand, she said. Human Resources Director Markie Rhodes said it can be done in time for Saturday’s clinic if he gets the information from each worker by Friday.

“I appreciate everybody working together to make this happen as quickly as possible,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said. “I know there’s a lot of demand out there. And if we can meet that demand, that’s a positive thing.”

Werner plans to exhaust the state grant, which closes at the end of June. If that funding runs out or he still needs to keep operating clinics after June, he would go to the council, he said.

As of now, the health department has been dispensing 450 doses a week. A month from now, that amount will increase to 900 doses a week.

“We do not have the capability to socially distance and bring 900 people into our building,” Werner said. “So we will do the second doses through the drive-thru. But we are going to need additional staff to do that.”




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