The end to their wait for vaccinations against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic is coming into sight for people 65 years and older. Some have already been vaccinated, some are among the first in line and others are awaiting word on when their appointments will be scheduled.
Sam Koshel, 78, began his efforts into getting vaccinated through Marshfield Clinic as soon as he was able to fill out the eligibility survey at marshfieldclinic.org/CovidVaccine. His first appointment was on Tuesday, the day after his age group will start receiving their first of two doses. He and his wife, 78-year-old retired nurse Carolyn, have a sentimental reason for receiving the vaccine as soon as possible.
“We want to be in the physical presence of our grandkids,” Koshel said. “Since March we have completely quarantined ourselves. We have that investment in staying away from the virus.”
The Rice Lake man said the couple wanted to try to continue on with a normal life and felt at their age they are losing precious time with their growing grandchildren, who live in Chaska, Minn., and Atlanta.
But aside from visiting their grandchildren, the couple also yearned to meet with other people, and vaccinations were a step down that path. A retired Lutheran pastor, Koshel said they attended church online, but he missed meeting with fellow congregants in person after services.
While Koshel looks forward to receiving his shot, retired nurse Kathy Knutson, 76, has already received her first dose.
Because she works as a volunteer in Marshfield Clinic’s gift shop and her husband, Ed, volunteers in hospice, the couple received the first of two vaccination shots on Jan. 15. The second visit comes three weeks after the first and are scheduled at the time of the first shot.
The couple were vaccinated in the clinic’s conference room and had to wait 15 minutes after the dosage. Everything went smoothly, Knutson said, and she opted to sign up for an app from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asks vaccine recipients whether they experienced any side effects.
Meanwhile, Bun Hanson, 77, of Rice Lake is waiting for word on when he will be vaccinated, although he and his wife will continue to take safety precautions as usual.
Hanson, who thought his work at Appleyard’s Funeral Home might have bumped him up the ranks a bit, has been trying to get an appointment at both Marshfield Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System.
Mayo said it would contact him and his wife on the portal, and Hanson has been calling the clinic for a couple of weeks, he said.
And he hasn’t been the only one trying to set up an appointment.
Marshfield Clinic Health System reported earlier this week that it has received thousands of requests for vaccinations. The clinic said it was working as quickly as possible to ensure patients who are eligible receive the first-dose vaccine while it waits additional supplies.
According to the state Department of Health Services, there are approximately 700,000 Wisconsinites who are 65 and older, and Wisconsin currently receives around 70,000 first-dose vaccines per week from the federal government.
Without an increase in the amount of vaccines, elderly patients may have to wait weeks, if not months, to receive the vaccination, the news release stated.
In a news release Friday, Mayo Clinic Health System said it’s experiencing a high volume of phone calls from patients who are requesting to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
The clinic assured people in northwestern Wisconsin that it will contact them when they are eligible to schedule an appointment. Once this contact has been made, patients will be able to schedule a vaccination appointment.
Patients with a Patient Online Services account, which can be set up on the Mayo Clinic Health System website, will receive a message via Patient Online Services when they are eligible to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination appointment, the news release said. Patients without an account will receive a letter inviting them to schedule their appointment.
Barron County Public Health reported four more deaths Monday, and they were all in their 70s and 80s.