KT Gallagher

MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Public Health Department held a large vaccination clinic Thursday at the fieldhouse on UW-Stout campus, and for the first time, workers were providing vaccines to children ages 12 to 15.

KT Gallagher, the county’s public health director, said the event had been planned for a while, and it was a pleasant surprise to be able to give the Pfizer vaccine to youths who showed up for doses, with consent from their parents. Gallagher helped participants fill out forms and answer their questions before they got their shots.

“We’re exciting the timing worked out,” Gallagher said. “We were able to implement that very early (Thursday).”

The event was coordinated between the university and Mayo Clinic Health Systems, where they provided both the single-shot Johnson & Johnson, and the first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine. A followup clinic has been set for June 3, so everyone who attended can get their second Pfizer dose. More Johnson & Johnson doses will also be available June 3 as well.

Gallagher said 211 people received a COVID-19 vaccine at the fieldhouse on Thursday: 149 Pfizer and 62 Johnson & Johnson doses. Countywide, 68 adolescents ages 12-15 got a Pfizer dose on Thursday.

While the J&J shot has caused rare blood clotting issues, particularly in younger women, Gallagher said she has seen people receptive to getting that vaccine, particularly those who already have a phobia of needles, or don’t want to worry about scheduling a second shot three weeks later.

Like other public health directors in the region, Gallagher is fighting vaccine hesitancy in her county. She believes reaching those people will require going into communities, and not expecting them to come to medical centers.

“We do need to meet folks where they are at, as a means of convenience,” Gallagher said.

Roughly 36.1% of Dunn County residents have received their first COVID-19 vaccine, behind Eau Claire (46.8%) and Chippewa (41.8%) counties, as well as the state’s 44.9% average.

“I absolutely am surprised we didn’t have a greater uptick,” Gallagher said of her county trailing behind nearby counties. “Some people are waiting to talk to their doctors; they want to make sure it’s a good thing for them.”

Gallagher also believes it has simply been harder for some people to find the time to get in and get their shot.

“We are a younger county, by demographics,” Gallagher said. “A lot of college students have left.”

Dunn County’s senior population also are falling behind, with 75.3% of seniors having received their first dose, trailing Eau Claire (84.3%) and Chippewa (84.5%) counties, and also behind the state’s 82.7% average. Gallagher said she still needs to look at ways to address that gap.

“That is really an opportunity for them to talk to their medical provider,” Gallagher said.

Vaccination rates drop; adolescents begin

The new vaccination rate across Wisconsin dipped even further in the past week despite ample supplies of doses, as only 0.8% of the state’s population received their first shot. That is down from a 1.0% increase a week ago, 1.6% two weeks ago, and 3.0% growth three weeks ago.

Wisconsin now has 2.616 million residents (44.9%) of its population vaccinated, up from 2.56 million (44.1%) a week ago. Roughly 2.26 million Wisconsinites (38.9%) have now completed their vaccine series, up from 2.11 million (36.4%) a week ago.

Only Buffalo (1.2%), St. Croix (1.1%), Dunn and Pierce (each 1.0%) counties were ahead of the state’s vaccination rate over the past week, with seven of the area 12 counties below the state’s average. Just three western Wisconsin counties — Eau Claire, Buffalo and Trempealeau — have a higher vaccination rate than the state’s 44.9% rate.

Three more counties in the state — Ashland, Iron and Oneida — have reached 50% of its population having received their first dose; overall, nine counties in the state have reached that mark, with Dane County (62.2%) still leading the state’s rate.

However, Taylor (25.3%), Clark (25.5%) and Rusk (28.9%) counties are the bottom three in the state and are the only counties not to reach 30% of its population getting at least one dose.

Roughly 82.7% of Wisconsin’s seniors (age 65 and up) have now received at least one dose, up from 81.4% last week and 80.8% two weeks ago. Roughly 62.7% of those ages 55 to 64 have also received their first dose, up from 61.7% a week ago.

A total of 3,456 adolescents ages 12 to 15 (1.2%) got a Pfizer dose between Thursday and Friday, the first days they were eligible to get a vaccine. Meanwhile, 27.7% of teens ages 16-17 have received at least one dose, up from 27.4% a week ago.