Two of the 10 local counties in the Telegraph Herald coverage area have cleared the 70% threshold of residents 12 and older who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
But officials in Jo Daviess County, Ill., and Iowa County, Wis., provide different explanations for leading the pack in vaccination rate locally.
As of the latest data available Sunday afternoon, 75.6% of Jo Daviess County residents 12 and older were fully vaccinated, while Iowa County’s rate stood at 72%. Vaccines currently are approved for people 12 and older.
The next-highest rate in the TH coverage area was Dubuque County, which stood at 67.8%. The lowest local county was Clayton County, Iowa, at 50.6%.
In Jo Daviess County, Public Health Administrator Sandra Schleicher chalked the success up to several factors.
She said Jo Daviess County tends to skew older than some other counties in the area.
“A lot of our population is in that older age group, too, who were able to get the vaccine earlier,” she said, referring to the initial prioritization of doses going to those 65 and older. “A bigger percentage went out and got their shot right away.”
Schleicher also said leaders in Jo Daviess County — from all ends of the ideological spectrum — were quick to publicly support and announce they were getting vaccinated as well. Her department also launched an aggressive public messaging campaign right away.
“I think there was a lot of interest at the beginning,” she said. “We were also able to work with a lot of partners in the county to get that message out there and administer a lot of doses.”
In Iowa County, Emergency Management Director Keith Hurlbert said some of its early success related to the county’s geographic location.
“Iowa County has a unique geographical relationship with Dane County (home to Madison), where it might have been easier at first to get access to the vaccines,” he said. “We have a fair amount of our workforce who travels to Dane County every day. That helped.”
Hurlbert said Iowa County residents also just were quick to follow public health recommendations.
“Iowa County’s approach was to hit really hard with messaging, using social media and the internet, never turning down an interview, have a constant presence out there,” he said. “We have just had a lot of success getting our people onboard. Many, many more people than not wore masks, social distanced and did all the right things.”
An examination of ZIP-code-level data from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Wisconsin Department of Health Services show large vaccination ranges even inside Jo Daviess and Iowa counties.
In Jo Daviess County, Galena and the surrounding area has a far higher vaccination rate than East Dubuque, for instance. In Iowa County, the closer an area is to Madison, the higher the rate is.