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First COVID-19 vaccinations under way in Hancock, Winnebago counties

First COVID-19 vaccinations under way in Hancock, Winnebago counties

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Allison Rice, Sheila Gelhaus COVID-19 vaccination

Winnebago County Public Health RN Clinical Manager Allison Rice (left) administers an initial COVID-19 vaccine dose to Sheila Gelhaus, who is an occupational therapist for WCPH. 

COVID-19 vaccinations of healthcare workers and care facility staff and residents are under way in Hancock and Winnebago Counties.

On Dec. 28, Hancock and Winnebago Counties Emergency Coordinator Andy Buffington informed Hancock County Supervisors that county vaccinations began on Dec. 23.

He said that local public health officials provided the vaccinations to staff at several doctor's offices in the county. Vaccinations continued into the following week.

Buffington estimated that about 50 percent of people are initially getting vaccinated as Phase 1a as the rollout begins. He noted that some are not taking the vaccine due to medical reasons such as allergic reactions, and some are choosing not to be vaccinated at this time.

"My sister was vaccinated and she had some local site pain from the injection, which is a common immune response," Buffington told supervisors.

He noted that the Moderna vaccines are now available, in addition to the initial rollout of Pfizer vaccines. He said that the Moderna vaccines require an initial shot with a follow-up injection 20 days later.

Buffington informed supervisors that the federal government has coordinated with several large pharmacy chains for vaccinations to care center facilities. He noted that local public health officials are not involved in the nursing home aspect of the Phase 1a vaccine rollout, but are available to assist or answer questions.

Hancock County supervisors did not make any immediate changes to the county's COVID-19 policy with the vaccinations just under way.

At the Dec. 29 Winnebago County Supervisors meeting, Julie Sorenson of Winnebago County Public Health discussed the county's COVID-19 policies and vaccine rollout with supervisors.

Sorenson recommended no changes to the county's current COVID-19 policies and supervisors made no changes at this time. She said that vaccinations of healthcare workers in Winnebago County began on Dec. 23 and continued into the following week. She also noted receiving the newly-approved (for emergency use) Moderna initial vaccines. 

Sorenson estimated that more than half of healthcare workers in Winnebago County are taking the vaccine to date. She also said that many clients and members of local communities have been calling to see when they are eligible to receive the vaccines.

She noted that the coming Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout may be available to persons 75 years of age or older, with other community members probably being eligible later. She added that the rollouts are a work in progress and the groups eligible to be vaccinated could continue to change. 

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at


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