PRIMGHAR—Janice Vande Griend knows the importance of getting people immunized against COVID-19 and was happy to lend her time in O’Brien County earlier this year vaccinating residents.

“It was just something good to do to help people,” said Vande Griend, a retired nurse from Sibley.

She was one of about 20 people the O’Brien County Public Health Office recognized Tuesday evening, May 25, with a reception at the courthouse in Primghar for their volunteer work assisting the health agency with its vaccination clinics.

Organizations and cities across the county that also assisted with vaccine efforts also were recognized. Those included:

  • Community Memorial Health Center in Hartley.
  • MercyOne Primghar Medical Center.
  • Prairie View Campus.
  • Sanford Sheldon Medical Center.
  • Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon.
  • Willoway Complex in Sutherland.
  • Cities of Hartley, Paullina, Sanborn and Sheldon.

If not for the help of the volunteers and partner entities, nurse administrator Kim Morran said the office would not have been able to inoculate as many people as it did given its small size.

She also expressed her appreciation for the office being able to hold the clinics at facilities such as public libraries or event centers free of charge.

As far as the individual volunteers, Morran said some were people the public health office contacted while others reached out to the office to ask how they could get involved. The volunteers assisted in a variety of ways, such as administering doses and taking calls in the office from people requesting vaccine appointments.

“It’s awesome people came together to get it done,” Morran said.

Vande Griend has known Morran for years, since Morran grew up with Vande Griend’s daughter in Sibley, Leah Doom. Vande Griend retired from being a nurse about five years ago but wanted to put her experience to use once she saw the need the public health office had for extra help.

Vande Griend also spoke of the personal impact COVID-19 had on her and her family, since her husband, Jeff, tested positive for the disease in October and had to be hospitalized. When she accompanied him to the emergency room, she also was tested as a precaution and received a positive result.

Each of them recovered from the coronavirus, and Jeff was able to leave the ER after about five days.

“I just felt like if we’re ever going to get past COVID, we need to get people immunized,” Vande Griend said.

She described volunteering at the vaccination clinics as a fun experience and said she enjoyed meeting new people.

The clinics have slowed down recently due to fading demand, although Morran and her staff are still administering vaccines in the office to people who set up individual appointments.

She said the office also held a Pfizer vaccine clinic for youth on May 20 and held another Thursday. Each event saw about 25 kids get the immunization.

Since O’Brien County does not have an ultracold freezer to store the Pfizer dose shipments, Morran’s office retrieves however many doses it needs from Clay County, which has ultracold storage.

“Clay County got the shipment of 1,170 doses, and then smaller counties are splitting it with them,” she said.

The office also administers the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, neither of which requires Pfizer’s ultracold temperature storage.

This story was first published in the June 5, 2021, print edition of The South O'Brien Sun.