The Jefferson County Health Department has not let a single drop of precious COVID-19 vaccine go to waste as it has been issuing it to appropriate populations in recent days.

County nurses have been busy distributing as much COVID-19 vaccine as they have had available to people who fall into the 1A classification of those eligible to receive it.

Lake Mills Area School District staff members were vaccinated last week, with Jefferson County Health Department Director Gail Scott adding that all school districts were invited to have their staff inoculated.

As part of phase 1A, teachers, fire and EMS personnel — considered essential workers — were vaccinated by the Jefferson County Health Department late last week.

Jefferson County epidemiologist Samroz Jakvani said the health department had extra doses of vaccine available from the Phase 1A roll-out. Health officials said they continue to actively recruit for those eligible under phase 1A, but there wasn’t as much of a response as anticipated under this tier.

“No school has been in a continuous process of having their staff vaccinated,” Scott said. “We are not recruiting staff from schools to register for the vaccine. Based on current guidance available from the Department of Health Services and State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, we are only recruiting 1A individuals to register for an appointment to be vaccinated. That being said, we encountered a surplus of doses this week that had to be administered.”

Watertown Unified School District Superintendent Cassandra Schug said her school district has been working directly with the Watertown Health Department to coordinate vaccinations for its staff members who fall into category 1A.

Schug commended the Watertown Health Department for its efforts at helping inoculate eligible staff in the district.

“The Watertown Health Department has been excellent to work with. They have great communication and organization for assisting us in providing vaccines to those staff that fall into 1A,” Schug said. “Staff who provide health care to our students have very much appreciated the opportunity to be vaccinated and we have been very glad to be able to provide support for this first step in the vaccination process.”

Schug said there has been no problem with vaccine availability for the staff who qualify for the vaccine in this first round.

Scott said that because the county health department anticipated some vaccine surplus, based on the experiences of other local health departments around the state as they began vaccinating, she and her staff requested short lists from school districts of prioritized people to receive vaccine in the event it was available.

“All school partners in Jefferson County were given this opportunity and uniform guidance,” she said. “We did not specify who should be prioritized, given the varying need and infrastructure of each school, and due to time constraints we were working with. We did specify a few of the many factors that could be considered, such as age, vulnerability, exposure — all relevant and appropriate to SDMAC guidance.

Scott’s department also provided additional data to help move the process along appropriately.

“Other factors that impacted our clinic included the fact that individuals sometimes do not show up for appointments and their doses remain viable for administration,” Scott said. “Some vials yield more than the expected number of doses. There is simply no way to plan, or account for, how many extra doses will be available until we prepare all the available vaccine for administration into arms.”

Scott said the key takeaway from the most recent clinic is that her department vaccinated all 1A individuals it could.

“There were those we actively recruited and those who have reached out to us,” she said. “We also vaccinated public safety personnel, including police and fire workers, given their recent inclusion into the 1A tier approved to receive vaccine.”

Scott said the majority of those the county vaccinated last week includes healthcare workers as detailed in state guidance, as well as public safety personnel.

“In addition, we vaccinated those healthcare workers who were not able to receive vaccine that their employer received — for example, 16- and 17-year-olds who work at long-term care facilities and hospitals where the Moderna vaccine was allocated. These individuals were able to receive the Pfizer vaccine at our clinic this week.”

Scott said it is a complex process to schedule and plan for extra doses to be administered.

“Our team has worked tirelessly over these past weeks to ensure we had as efficient and effective a plan for distribution as possible,” she said. “Overall, we had great success this past week. We did not allow a single dose to go to waste, while proceeding it in a highly prioritized manner. We had great success in serving the residents of Jefferson County to the best of our ability, within the parameters provided to us by the state.”

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