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Take a shot: EMS personnel receive COVID-19 vaccinations


No sooner had Bill Bingham, Galena Emergency Medical Service District coordinator, received his COVID-19 vaccination, than he was telling colleagues that he could hardly wait for his second shot, “to get this thing over.”

He has 28 days to wait. He received the Moderna vaccine at the hands of Lori Stangl, director of clinical services for the Jo Daviess County Health Department at Midwest Medical Center at 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 31. The Moderna vaccine requires a 28-day period between the first and second shots. Bingham and 49 other EMTs were supposed to receive their first shot two days earlier, but the health department canceled the clinic, due to the expected winter storm that day.

Some frontline medical workers also received immunization shots.

The health department had a valid reason for cancelling Tuesday’s clinic other than safety of those scheduled for immunization. Once a vial is opened, the vaccine needs to be used immediately. It can’t be saved for another day.

In all, the health department administered vaccine to 50 individuals on Wednesday, Dec. 30 and an equal number the following day, all at Midwest Medical Center. The hospital has ample parking and facilities plus is equipped to help anyone who encounters a reaction after receiving the vaccine.

As opposed to the Pfizer vaccine which requires really cold temperatures for storage, the Moderna vaccine is easier for the health department to handle. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) sends the vaccine directly to the health department. It can then be stored in the department’s vaccine storage freezer.

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The Pfizer vaccine, on the other hand, requires storage at really cold temperatures, -60 to -80 degrees. Health department staff travels to Rockford with Jo Daviess Sheriff’s Office escort.

The next shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is this week. That vaccine will be used for the second inoculation of frontline medical workers who received their first vaccinations Dec. 16-18 at Midwest Medical Center.

Stangl noted that law enforcement personnel and firefighters are next in line for the vaccine. However, the health department has not been notified as to when they can expect shipment.

Sandra Schleicher, health department administrator, noted, “Final IDPH determination of the next phases and groups of people who will be vaccinated has not yet been decided. Once we move into the next phase, which will likely be a few more weeks, those next priority groups will be identified and information shared about making an appointment.”

At this time the health department is neither making appointments nor is keeping a “waiting list.”

Schleicher said the health department is waiting on news of additional shipments.

She added, “Everything went well with vaccines this week. We are happy to start getting the vaccine into more healthcare workers in our communities.”