West Lane Elementary School nurse Morgan Loesel (left) receives her first COVID-19 vaccine dose on Friday at the Show Me Center, with volunteer Maddy Yamnitz admistering the vaccine. Photo by Jay Forness
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County public health center begins vaccinations at Show Me Center

by Jay Forness ~ Assistant Editor

Front-line healthcare workers were able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from the Cape Girardeau Public Health Center at the Show Me Center, in what was described as a trial run for future vaccination clinics in the county.

Public Health Center Director Jane Wernsman said the center began giving COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 20, but started using the Show-Me Center as a vaccination clinic site last week, providing vaccinations on Tuesday and Friday.

She said the move to the Show Me Center allowed for better social distancing and allowed a larger number of people to be vaccinated. “The flow is better,” Wernsman said. “Offices are not usually set up for larger numbers.”

On Tuesday, almost 100 health care workers received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, while on Friday around 150 to 200 people were vaccinated. “We know that some individuals are eager to get the vaccine and we are doing the best that we can to work within the guidelines,” Wernsman said.

While Missouri is currently in phase 1A of its vaccination plan, Wernsman said they are already planning for future vaccination clinics once more people can be vaccinated.

She said the Public Health Center has already started looking at additional locations in the county to use as vaccination locations, and  has continued to work with Southeast Missouri State University to schedule additional vaccination clinics at the Show Me Center in the future.

“We have been working with other entities to try to identify where we could have a clinic that is easily accessible, provides the space and can create a good flow,” Wernsman said.

The Public Health Center has been working with the Jackson Civic Center and Cape Girardeau Public Schools to host future COVID-19 vaccination clinics. “That way we give folks who may not be able to make it to the Show-Me Center an opportunity to get the vaccine,” Wernsman said.

The clinic at the Show Me Center allows for up to four people to be vaccinated at one time, as well as space for registration and observation after receiving the vaccine dose.

Wernsman said the vaccine manufacturers recommend a 15-minute waiting period after people receive the vaccine to make sure they don’t have a negative reaction. She added that the clinic has room for patients to lie down if they don’t feel well, and they are observed by nurse practitioners.

Reservations were taken through an online system, where eligible healthcare workers were able to use an emailed link to schedule their vaccination. The clinics were open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with those registering able to pick times in 20-minute increments.

Wernsman said the clinics were open to front-facing healthcare workers throughout the region, including Illinois. “Because of our location, we have healthcare workers who live in Illinois but work in Cape Girardeau,” she said.

In addition with reaching out to other public health centers in southeast Missouri, Wernsman said they have been coordinating the regional vaccination effort with SoutheastHEALTH and Saint Francis Healthcare System to make sure all front-facing healthcare workers in the area are able to receive the vaccine.

She said the public health center’s clinics have been able to vaccinate dentists, pharmacists, home health nurses and others not affiliated with either hospital.

Phase 1A of the vaccination plan includes patient-facing healthcare workers, as well as the residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B will allow those at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness (including those over 65 years old), first responders and essential workers to receive the vaccine.

Phase two of Missouri’s vaccine plan will allow populations who are at increased risk because of their living situation, such as prisoners or the homeless, to receive the vaccine. Phase three will include all remaining Missouri residents.

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