Thursday was a significant day in the local fight against COVID-19.
Polk and Burnett County residents who received their first vaccinations in January were back at the Polk County Highway Department in Balsam Lake, to obtain the second dose.
This group was made up of those 65 and older, health care workers and law enforcement and EMT personnel.
Included in that group was 102-year-old veteran William Patten of Osceola. Patten was 23 years old in Dec. 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He soon enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and became a pilot.
He flew 23 combat missions into northern Italy and Germany in 1943-44.
Patten came into the Highway Department wearing a Minnesota Vikings mask, which led to some good-natured ribbing from health workers there.
Explained his caregiver Eve Bjork, thanks to the Vikings and Hy-Vee, Patten along with four other WWII veterans in Nov. 2019 visited England and France, where they toured several places, including Normandy Beach.
Bjork said Patten exercises five days a week at Wild River Fitness in Osceola. There’s no doubt his mind is sharp, when a worker asked him if he wanted another shot. He replied, “Not in my arm.”
When asked about receiving the vaccine, Bjork said: “We’ve been waiting for this. To live our lives.”
To back up her point, Bjork said, now they have received both doses, they hope to visit Patten’s daughter in Missouri.
Polk County Interim Health Officer Tonya Eichelt stated 730 Moderna vaccines were administered at no charge to the customer.
It was truly a volunteer effort to make this work, she explained, as around 150 people volunteered, ranging from those who administered the dose (Public Health staff, medical personnel on their days off, she noted) to those helping with registration and handing out education information.
She went onto state the most common side effects for those who get the second shot are swelling and redness in the arm and flu-like symptoms. Those usually start within a day or two of getting the vaccine.
A drive-thru clinic for those to receive their first dose scheduled for Feb. 24 was cancelled due to shipment delays caused by the storms that crippled Texas and the rest of the southern United States. Polk County health officials announced that clinic was rescheduled to March 3.
The Department of Health Services (DHS) announced Feb. 25 the new groups which will be eligible for the vaccine starting March 1: Education and child care staff, people enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs, some public-facing essential workers, non-frontline essential health care personnel, and facility staff and residents in congregate living settings.
As of Feb. 26, 14.3 percent of Polk County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 5.9 percent receiving both doses, according to the DHS.