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County holds first round of vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations continued in Austin Wednesday, as Emergency Medical Services personnel and Public Health COVID vaccinators offered up their arms for the first of two required shots.

Among the first were Austin firefighters and members of the Mower County Sheriff’s Department. It was a day many have been looking forward to for a long time now.

“It was pretty exciting and I’ve been thrilled to see the shots going into people’s arms,” said Pam Kellogg, Mower County Public Health community health division manager. “It’s been great.”

Mower County Sheriff’s deputy Dave Pike gets his COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday afternoon at the Government Center from public health nurse Karen Frank. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The county vaccinations come about a week after Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin staff began getting their first vaccinations.

The county received their first 100 doses on Dec. 23, with the materials required to distribute the shots the day before.

The county, and the Mayo staff before it, are part of a very narrow band of people getting the first doses of the vaccine through Phase 1a-First Priority that includes hospitals, long-term care facilities, EMS personnel, COVID testers, COVID community vaccinators and long-term care residents.

For those in the role of first responders, the vaccines are particularly welcome.

“It’s good to know the vaccine is here and we’re going to be protected,” Austin Fire Chief Jim McCoy said. “First responders on a daily basis are responding to COVID patients. It’s additional protection.”

The Austin Fire Department has had firefighters that have had COVID-19 or who had to quarantine because of exposure to those that have had it.

Despite the COVID-19 impacts, McCoy said the AFD has been able to continue normal operations.

“We’ve been blessed that we’ve had very few firefighters with COVID,” McCoy said. “We take the orders set forth by the governor very seriously.”

Kellogg said she was unsure when the next batch of first-round vaccinations would come, explaining that the county is on a week-by-week basis.

However,  Kellogg has seen a willingness of people outside of EMS personnel who are willing to get the shot the offer is made.

“I was really excited about the vaccines and people wanting to get them,” Kellogg said. “Early on people were hesitant, but now they’ve been calling daily asking how they get the vaccine and even more say they are waiting to get it.”