County Health plans flu shots at area schools

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 10/6/21

HERMANN — Plans are being crafted by the Gasconade County Health Department to provide flu vaccinations at the county’s schools, according to health agency Administrator Greg …

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County Health plans flu shots at area schools

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HERMANN — Plans are being crafted by the Gasconade County Health Department to provide flu vaccinations at the county’s schools, according to health agency Administrator Greg Lara.

During last week’s regular monthly session of the agency’s Board of Trustees, Lara noted that a date to begin the program has yet to be penciled in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. The local health department has received word from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that it will have to go through the vaccine acquisition process again.

“We’ve gotten notification from the state…we’re going to have to resubmit our order, for whatever reason,” the administrator said.

Public health officials have received word that’s okay to give the flu vaccination and the coronavirus vaccination at the same time. “We’ll give one in one arm, the other in the other arm, if that’s what they want,” Lara said.

Unlike its efforts to deal with the initial wave of the coronavirus, when it put almost all its other work on hold, the county public health agency is maintaining it work in other areas as it deals with the virus’ Delta variant. The agency’s environmental specialist has been keeping busy.

“We’re able to get some inspections done,” Lara told the trustees, meeting via Zoom. “We’re going to be working on getting the school inspections done this week,” he added. The health agency is responsible for inspecting eating establishments including school cafeterias.

In other matters, the administrator said work continues on moving the agency’s Owensville offices into new space next door. “They’ve got some demolition going on now,” he said, adding that some new furniture has been purchased “to help spruce the office up a little.”

The relocation has been in the works for a while.

“We’re making some progress there,” he told the board members.

Lara explained that the move into the new space will be made with a slight twist. By unplugging and moving the office’s refrigeration units, the vaccine that is stored there will have to be transported to the Hermann office. And that means the vaccine will have to be tested to ensure that it has retained its viability before it’s returned to the Owensville office.

That prompted a discussion about purchasing new refrigeration equipment for the Owensville office. The refrigerator now being used is five years old. The administrator will look into buying new equipment.

The agency’s operating budget is holding up well, Lara said, noting that “on the income side, we’re looking pretty good.”

On the expense side, he said, “We’re still using up funds from the grant for COVID and contact tracing,” he said.

Indeed, the contract tracing effort regarding the schools has shifted from Health Department staff to the local schools’ nurses. The school nurses are finding the same reaction from parents here that health workers are finding nationwide when it comes to altering parents to their children being quarantined. A nurse at one of the Hermann schools noted that she had received a veiled threat from a parent who was upset to learn that her child was among those quarantined recently. The nurse said she was bothered to receive such a reception from the parent.

The shift in contract tracing duties has placed public school officials squarely in the view of parents whose schedules are being disrupted by having their children quarantined.

Local school officials, dealing with their own dilemma of whether to impose mask mandates for students, are trying to emphasize that they are simply the messenger regarding the quarantine of students.

“It’s not the (school) district quarantining people,” said Gasconade County R-1 Superintendent Geoff Neill at last month’s school board meeting. “We are the messenger saying the Health Department is quarantining” the students.

On another front, Lara told the board the county’s recent emergency management drill was hailed as a success by state and federal representatives monitoring the event. The Health Department is a key member of the county’s emergency response team that would be mobilized in the event of a disaster at the Ameren Callaway Nuclear Power Plant in Callaway County.

“They thought we did an excellent job,” Lara said of the people monitoring the drill held in the county’s Emergency Operations Center in the courthouse.

Regarding the Health Department’s Board of Trustees, four of the five seats are filled — President Stan Hall, Susan Steinbeck, Mary Leeper and Ruth Bock, a former agency administrator and public health nurse who has been coaxed back into service after retirement. The fifth seat was held by Glenn Duncan of Owensville. Lara said the agency is looking for a potential successor to Duncan. The agency will make a recommendation to the County Commission, which will appoint Duncan’s successor. Afterwards, the trustee will stand for election.

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