Jo Daviess County featured in New York Times for almost 100 percent vaccination rate of elderly
Published in the New York Times on May 15, 2021
Written by Daniel E. Slotnik
More than 70 percent of Americans who are 65 or older are fully vaccinated, and 84 percent have received at least one dose, a much higher proportion than for younger Americans, according to federal data. The numbers have surpassed President Biden's goal of at least partly vaccinating 70 percent of the nation's adults by July 4.
Some counties have blown far past that threshold, getting shots into more than 90 percent of residents 65 and older and offering an example for other areas where vaccine campaigns have lagged.
Two of the most populous 90-percent-plus counties are Jo Daviess County, IL, served by Midwest Medical Center, Galena, across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, IA, and Dane County, WI, which includes Madison, the state capital.
Elected and health officials in both counties suggested that some of the measures that they have adopted locally, such as expanding access and relying on trusted medical figures to share information about vaccines, were also reflected in the federal government's strategy to reach those who have not received shots yet after the pace of vaccination has lagged in recent weeks.
President Biden has pushed for tens of thousands of pharmacies to allow people to walk in for their vaccinations, and ordered up pop-up and mobile clinics, especially in rural areas. The administration is also enlisting the help of family doctors and other trusted messengers to build up confidence in the vaccines.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden praised another incentive: The recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people who have been fully vaccinated can go without masks in most situations.
In Dane County, Joe Parisi, the county executive, said this week that a number of efforts contributed to his county's success in at least partly vaccinating most of the nearly 78,000 people 65 or over who live in the county. Over 90 percent of that group had been completely vaccinated as of Friday, according to local and federal data.
Officials strove to maximize access to the vaccine. They set up a mass vaccination site in December at the Alliant Energy Center, an arena and exhibition complex in Madison, and have distributed vaccines at health centers, pharmacies, and mobile vaccination clinics, according to Morgan Finke, a spokeswoman for the county public health department.
Mr. Parisi said that the county works with local hospital systems, healthcare providers, senior care centers, and nursing homes to locate homebound people and help them get shots.
They did not encounter much hesitancy. "People wanted the vaccine," Mr. Parisi said, "That certainly wasn't the problem with that age group."
Even so, he said, fostering trust and answering people's questions are very important, especially now that the most eager recipients are already done. Mr. Parisi said the county partnered with trusted local doctors to spread the word about the vaccines through local news media outlets.
"We tried to share as much information as possible," Mr. Parisi said, by "providing those voices that are nonjudgmental and answer questions."
In Jo Daviess County in the northwestern corner of Illinois, communication and community partnerships also played a major role, Lori Stangl, the county's director of clinical services, wrote in an email.
Of the roughly 6,000 seniors in the county, 96.7 percent are fully vaccinated as of Friday, according to the CDC. Ms. Stangl credited extensive collaboration both within the county and with neighboring counties and states.
"Since Jo Daviess County borders Iowa and Wisconsin, many of our residents were able to receive vaccines there as well," Ms. Stangl wrote, "especially early on, when our allocations were low."
Though county leaders celebrate their success with seniors, she wrote, they are mindful that they still have many younger people left to reach. As of Friday, 54.9 percent of the county's total population had been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.