Health department ramps up vaccine services

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The Dubois County Health Department has taken extra precautions so that the public can come into the building and safely receive vaccinations.

For a while, the facility was closed to the public because of COVID-19, as were all county buildings. But now that the building is open to the public again, health officials are encouraging people to get needed vaccinations.

“We’ve taken measures to make the public feel safe to come in here,” said Shawn Werner, interim administrative director for the health department. “With that, we’ve started ramping services back up before school starts, to get those kids in here and taken care of.”

People are required to wear a mask while inside the building. And if a parent has a child getting a vaccine, the department asks that only the parent and child come in, not the whole family. If there is more than one child getting a vaccine, parents should make arrangements so that the one child stays in the vehicle while the other goes in to get a vaccine.

“We try not to have as many people in the office,” said registered nurse Sue Williams, vaccine coordinator for the department. “Our waiting room is broken down into four separate areas, in case somebody has to wait. But usually there’s not more than your appointment and the next appointment here at one time.”

Plexiglass barriers are also up to minimize direct contact between the clerks and the clients. Nurses also wear gloves and masks when they administer vaccines. And the room where the vaccines are given is disinfected between clients.

Staff members also have their temperatures taken when they come to work, and they are constantly washing their hands.

People must schedule an appointment ahead of time, and appointments are available daily. Also, on the first Wednesday of the month, the health department has an evening clinic that runs to 6 p.m.

On regular days, the last appointment made is for 3:30 p.m.; for the evening clinic, the last appointment is made for 5:30 p.m.

“This is to accommodate people that maybe work during the day and can come in later,” Williams said. “It’s a matter of really trying to be available to anybody that needs any vaccine.

To schedule an appointment, contact Immunizations Clerk Lisa Huff at 812-481-7056. Huff keeps up with the schedule, to set up how many people are coming in each hour “so that we have enough time to take care of everybody and not have too many people waiting,” Williams said.

In the fall, the department will administer flu shots; officials are looking into the idea of having an outdoor, drive-up clinic for that.

The department also has a schedule of all the clinic dates for the schools ready. “We’ve done this for so many years, it’s a well-oiled wheel,” Williams said. “So we do plan to go to the schools and give all these vaccinations. It’s just how. And based on the current regulations and restrictions, we may even do those outdoors.”

Each school will make that determination, she said.

“We want to make this as convenient for the parents as possible,” Werner said. “That’s the reason why we do the school clinics.”

Parents register online ahead of time. The school nurse will let the parents know when it’s time to do that, and when the clinic will happen. Parents will get a letter stating which vaccinations are needed so that they can determine which vaccines their child will get. “We’re trying to make it individualized for each parent,” Williams said.

The health department has all vaccines available.

“Dubois County is pretty progressive when it comes to offering everything to the Dubois County residents. There’s nothing that pharmacies had that we don’t have,” Williams said. “If there is a new vaccine that comes out right, we’re going to try and offer that vaccine to people, if it’s been approved and has gone through the proper process.”

For instance the latest vaccine the department has is the latest adult hepatitis B vaccine that came out a couple years ago in which a person is fully protected with two doses in a month; in the past, it was a series of three doses over six months.

And there is a shingles vaccination recommended for adults over age 50 that is proven to be 99% effective for keeping someone from getting shingles. “There was a delay for that one because there’s been such a huge demand,” Williams said. “But now we’ve gotten a much more ample supply.”

Health officials are also telling those who are age appropriate about the HPV vaccine, which they have grant funding for.

“That is a vaccination that is not required for school. But it prevents cancer in men and women,” Williams said. “And human papillomavirus is a very contagious virus that you would contract through close, intimate physical contact. It’s covered by insurance and it’s a great way to help reduce your risk later, if you do come in contact with that virus. So you would prevent the infection ahead of time and be in a very good place to not have to worry about those cancers.”

There are programs available for people who do not have insurance. The Vaccines for Children program and 317 program are funded through the state. In the VFC, children up to age 18 who have Medicaid get their vaccines free of charge; those who do not have Medicaid or insurance only pay a $15 administrative fee. In the 317 program, adults 19 and older who don’t have insurance pay the $15 administrative fee.

“That is something nice for people because those adult vaccinations are so very expensive,” Williams said.

Although COVID-19 is still around, the health department has put in place extra safety precautions to ensure people will be safe when they come in for vaccinations and, later this year, the flu shot. Officials are encouraging people to get back on their vaccine schedule, for themselves and their children.

“Whatever vaccine is there,” Williams said, “we have it.”




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