Health department focusing on smaller vaccination clinics and family planning services

Suzette Lowe

The end is in sight for the large vaccination clinics that have been taking place at the National Guard Armory in Millwood.

According to the Jackson County Health Department’s emergency preparedness director, Wendy Staats, the shift will be to smaller clinics. These will take place at the department’s location on South Church in Ripley.

“We will have one large clinic on June 12 at the armory,” said Staats. “That will take care of second doses for those vaccinated on May 22.”

Transitioning to the smaller clinics does not mean that COVID-19 has left the area. In fact, Staats said that the UK variant is on the rise here.

“This type is not as severe as the strain we’ve been dealing with in the past year,” she said. “It does spread faster though. We are seeing it in schools and in the community.”

Staats said she can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting the vaccine.

“It’s available at pharmacies all over the county,” she said. “The only way we’re going to get rid of COVID is with vaccinations. Remember that the governor is offering $100 gift card or savings bond to those ages 16-35 to get their shots.”

Testing is available at pharmacies as well. Those without insurance can go to a Fruth or Walgreens drive-through.

Expanded family planning services are being offered once again at the health department.

Tena Casto, family planning clerk, said not many people were coming to family planning during COVID. While immunization, breast and cervical clinics and court-ordered paternity testing were offered during the pandemic, very few were taking part.

“We are ramping the program up again,” said Casto. “We’ll provide medical exams, such as breast exams and others related to women’s health, at a monthly clinic. Those are set up when our clinician is available.”

The health department also offers birth control options. After an initial consultation with the clinician, the department’s registered nurse can dispense on a follow-up visit.

Education and counseling are important components in the family planning services offered.

“Our providers, including our nurse Jo Ellen Wilson, will offer information that, especially with our younger clients, can be eye-opening,” explained Casto. “Often they will leave understanding the ramifications of the choices they are trying to make.”

Family planning services are open to women, men and adolescents. Certain requirements must be met. These include unemployment, the inability to afford birth control after paying for basic needs, having no insurance or insurance that doesn’t cover birth control or family planning, employment in a low-paying or temporary job or student status.

For information on family planning, COVID-19 or other services, contact the health department at 304-372-2634 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.