New case numbers for COVID-19 remain low in Rock County, and the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Blackhawk Technical College is set to host its final days of immunizations next week as public health officials urge unvaccinated residents to seek shots or risk infection and a resurgence of the virus this fall.
On Feb. 16, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services partnered with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to open the first community-based vaccine clinic in the state at BTC’s central campus at 6004 S. County G in the town of Rock.
Since February, vaccine supply has remained stable for all community providers, including health systems, nonprofits and others.
During a media briefing Thursday, Rock County Public Health Department officials credited the clinic with administering vaccinations to people who might not have had access to health care providers.
“It really helped us fill in the gaps in the community,” said Jessica Turner, the health department’s media coordinator.
The clinic will offer COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday and Thursday only next week. Shots will be offered from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday. Those with appointments will schedule their second doses at an alternate provider with help from clinic workers.
“The more people become vaccinated, the more we can keep the virus from spreading, and that is what we need to do to prevent other mutations that could potentially be even more dangerous,” Turner said. “We all want to continue to experience the benefits of the reduced spread that we have been seeing, and getting as many people as possible vaccinated is what is going to keep us on the right track.”
A total of 17,947 doses have been administered at the BTC site as of Thursday. Among eligible county residents (those 12 and older), 55.9% have completed a vaccination series and 56.9% have received the first dose of a two-dose series, according to county numbers.
Early in the vaccination process, health providers and health department staff noticed gaps appearing in the Black and Hispanic communities as vaccine uptake waned quickly when compared to white residents. Equity in vaccine distribution has slowly caught up since December, when the first doses were given to frontline workers.
State vaccination data shows that 43.8% of all white county residents are fully vaccinated, followed by 40% of Asian residents, 20.3% of Native American residents and 20.1% of Black residents. Ethnicity data shows that 44.8% of those fully vaccinated in Rock County identify as non-Hispanic while 27.8% identify as Hispanic.
COVID-19 infection among young people continues to be a problem for communities across the country, and Rock County health officials said Thursday that a majority of new cases are of the contagious delta variant. In Rock County, fewer than one in four (23.7%) kids age 12 to 15 is fully vaccinated.
As age increases, so too do the COVID-19 vaccine uptake rates, data shows:
Age 16 and 17: 32.1%.
65 and older: 82.7%.
All three major vaccines available in the U.S. have shown to offer protection against variants of the virus, including the delta variant, Turner said.
“That’s why we are stressing that everyone who is eligible should get vaccinated,” Turner said.
If vaccine uptake remains low, Turner said the health department was concerned about a potential increase in cases and hospitalizations this fall and into the winter as residents move back indoors.
“It’s definitely something we will be monitoring and something that’s a concern to us,” Turner said.
Even as the clinic ramps down at BTC, many future options remain for residents to get vaccinated. The health department will continue to push outreach campaigns and is in the process of developing further targeted strategies to reach young people and underserved residents.