‘Resister’ county?

Health agency looks to combat public resistance to vaccination against COVID

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 3/2/22

HERMANN — Looking to boost the level of vaccination against COVID-19, the Gasconade County Health Department is mounting a campaign that treats the inoculation just like a shot for any other …

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‘Resister’ county?

Health agency looks to combat public resistance to vaccination against COVID

Posted

HERMANN — Looking to boost the level of vaccination against COVID-19, the Gasconade County Health Department is mounting a campaign that treats the inoculation just like a shot for any other common virus, such as shingles, pneumonia and the flu.

The move is being made after a recent statewide survey by the leading accounting firm of Deloit that shows Gasconade County among the so-called “resisters” to the coronavirus vaccine. The detailed survey was commissioned by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

Health Department Administrator Kenna Fricke Monday morning discussed the public education campaign with the agency’s Board of Trustees at its regular monthly session. “The focus is how can we increase the vaccination rate…especially among teenagers,” she said.

New signs have been obtained that lists COVID-19 among the various illnesses for which vaccinations are given at the health department. The vaccinations are available Monday through Friday, Fricke said. The signs will be stationed outside the agency offices in Hermann and Owensville.

The administrator said she will be meeting later this week with Dr. Michael Rothermich of Hermann Area District Hospital to consider additional measures to boost the vaccination rate. One such move could involve a social media campaign, she said. The goal is make getting a COVID shot as routine as a shot for other ailments, she said.

“I’d like to see it normalized just like any other vaccine,” Fricke said.

The number of COVID cases in Gasconade County, like elsewhere, is going down. However, as Fricke noted, state health agency officials can’t offer firm numbers because of the amount of in-home test kits being used. Results of the in-home kits depend on an honor system of residents reporting positive tests.

It does appear the virus is loosening its grip on local schools.

“All the schools are doing well right now,” Fricke said. Although she told the board that Gasconade County R-1 School District has recently dealt with a flu outbreak in the elementary school.

In other matters, Fricke will begin the process of finding a replacement for one of agency’s three registered nurses. Kristin Hemken, who joined the staff in recent months, is leaving the department to take a position at Boone County Hospital in Columbia. Hemken is a Columbia-area resident.

Fricke told the board that she feels confident the staff can operate effectively without quickly hiring a replacement. But the trustees agreed that a third nurse — even in a part-time capacity — would prove beneficial for the other workers, especially if the health agency grows in its role as lab-service provider.

“When you’re fully staffed, it takes pressure off everyone,” said Trustee Ruth Bock, a former public health nurse and former administrator of the county health agency.

The agency’s budget has funding for a third full-time nurse. But, as Board President Stan Hall noted, Fricke might wish to have a part-time person in that position. “If you only have two nurses, that’s tough,” he said.

Not being pressured at this time will allow Fricke to be more selective about who is tabbed for the position, Bock said.

While Fricke works to find a third nurse, she also will be considering ways to expand the hours of the department’s offices in Owensville.

“I’d like to see Owensville open more,” she told the board. The Owensville area is more populous than the Hermann area, it’s a younger population and, Fricke pointed out, residents of the southern portion of the county are reluctant to travel to Hermann for health department services. 

“People don’t want to drive here, so we need to have the (Owensville) office open,” she said.

The board’s next session is set for Monday, March 28. The trustees will continue to meet via Zoom for the foreseeable future, rather than returning to in-person meetings at the Hermann offices.

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