The Vaccine

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

The vaccine. It is here. It is safe. It is free. And it is available. It is so available, that there is no longer a wait list in Clayton County.

All anyone in the county needs to do is call (563) 245-2064 and they can be directed to a pharmacy or clinic and receive a vaccine. It is easy and it is free.

There can be side effects to the vaccine. Side effects like fatigue, body aches, chills and fevers.

They can last 12-48 hours. The biggest side effect is relief. Relief that we have another layer of protection. Another way to protect those we love and care for.

I have spent the last year going back and forth to work and home. I have avoided large group gatherings.

I have worn masks, washed my hands and socially distanced.

During a normal month, I may sign four death certificates. During the surge in Northeast Iowa, I was signing them daily, sometimes up to four a day.

I have watched patients and friends die from a disease that has no cure. There are treatments to help support the body and help in fighting the disease, but no proven cure. There have been many treatments, new and old, that have been tried and studied, around the world. We keep looking.

According to John Hopkins weekly report there have been 141.5 million cases and 3.0 million deaths worldwide. There have been 564,000 deaths in the United States.

Eighty percent of the time, the COVID virus has a mild effect. Twenty percent of the time, it is not mild. Roughly, ten percent of those with COVID will need hospitalizing and supportive care.

Two percent of the time the virus is deadly. We thought we could predict who would fall into that 20% category, but learned quickly, we could not. Basically, everyone is at risk.

A smoker is somewhere around 200-400 times more likely to develop a blood clot, than is someone that gets a COVID vaccine. Most of us have been getting vaccines our whole lives without issues.

As we have journeyed through the past year, it has come to my attention that if one has not been inside a medical institute during a surge, they may not have the same perspective as someone that has.

I share my experiences of the past year, not to be used as a scare tactic, but to give perspective.

This past year has changed me. It has changed us all.

The quickest way to take our life back, for the economy to recover, for businesses to return, for families and friends to gather is for everyone to get the vaccine. It is our best shot. It is America’s best shot.

Please, get yours NOW.

It is quite simple. If you love, care for and/or respect the people and family members you spend time with, you will get the vaccine to protect them and yourself.

The vaccine. It is here. It is safe. It is available. And it can save lives.

SHIIP Volunteer Saves Clients Thousands

SHIIP Counselor Jim Solomon wrapped up his third year of volunteering to help 218 clients save a total of $127,448.

Even during a pandemic, the important work of volunteer Jim Solomon carried on. Jim is a Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) Volunteer Counselor, working in an office at the Family Resource Center, providing free-of-charge counseling and information to people with questions about Medicare, Medicare supplement insurance, long term care insurance, and other health insurance. 

In his SHIIP Counselor role, Jim logged 305 hours to assist the 218 clients. In addition, client appointments were safely spread out with a thorough cleaning in between each appointment, extending Jim’s volunteer hours. 

COVID-19 didn’t slow down Jim in his efforts to assist others. When asked why he does it, especially during a pandemic, Jim answered, “Volunteering keeps me busy during retirement. I thoroughly enjoy meeting people, educating them on what is available, researching the best possible options, and offering accurate information for them to make their best decision.”

One of Jim’s most notable accomplishments in 2020 was saving one client over $20,000 in out of pocket prescription expenses by researching both the drug plans and the pharmacy plans. “Even though a drug plan is identified as the best plan, pharmacy plans also change from year to year, so both need to be researched,” added Jim. “My training equips me to dig in deep to help people with their questions and problems, and to save them the most money possible.”

His annual SHIIP training consists of three modules, each two to three hours long, plus homework.

“Staying updated is a continual process, but I’m very thankful for this opportunity to help others in my retirement. Saving people money is very fulfilling, but visiting with and getting to know them is an added bonus,” said Jim.

Family Resource Center Coordinator, Kari Harbaugh added, “Jim genuinely cares for his SHIIP clients. He cares deeply about each person’s situation. He enjoys building relationships with them and their families, and they trust him. Challenges don’t slow Jim down. He does the research and work it takes to present the best options to his clients equipping them to make their best decisions.” 

Since his volunteer work as a SHIIP Counselor began in the fall of 2018, Jim has spent over 1,000 hours volunteering to help his clients save $292,698 over three years. 

Adds Kari, “Jim’s dedication shines. He is such a gift to our communty!”

In addition to people from Clayton County, Jim’s clients consisted of seasonal travelers and people in other counties who heard about how great Jim was to work with. This year he also worked with social workers to assist people who were in the hospital and care centers.

Although Open Enrollment is over, Jim’s work goes on throughout the year. If you have questions regarding Medicare, please call the Family Resource Center, 563-252-3215, for a one-on-one appointment with Jim. He will answer questions and provide impartial information to help you make well informed decisions.

Recovery Connect

Recovery Connect is an eight week recovery journey where participants will learn how unresolved trauma can negatively impact both over-all mental health and physical health. Participants will be equipped with tools and connections to guide healing from past traumas. Registration is free, and child-care is provided.

The first session begins Wednesday, April 7 and meets 8 consecutive Wednesdays. Click here for details.

Benefits of Participation:

  • Live with Less Anxiety
  • Learn Coping Skills
  • Improve Self Confidence
  • Understand the Importance of Social Connections 
  • Learn Effective Communication Skills
  • Understand Healthy Relationships vs Unhealthy Relationships
  • Identify Types of Abuse
  • Regain Emotional Balance
  • Increase Assertiveness
  • Set Boundaries
  • Learn Healthy Stress Relief Options
  • Understanding Nutrition, Gut and Brain Health

Space is limited. To register for Recovery Connect, call 563-252-3215 or Email: family.resource.center@guttenberghospital.org 

The program will be led by Kate DeWall, LISW with self care taught by Sadie Hefel. Recovery Connect is brought to the community through the Family Resource Center and partnerships with Family’s Helping Hand and SART – Sexual Assault Response Team Clayton Co.

Vaccination Update

Clayton County COVID-19 VaccinUpdate

On Thursday, 3/4/2021, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced that those individuals under age 65 with certain underlying health conditions would be vaccine eligible beginning Monday, 3/8. Qualifying medical conditions for those under 65 include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Full listing and information on qualifying medical conditions can be found at the CDC website:


Clayton County vaccine providers will continue to prioritize those age 65 and older and those who qualify under Phase 1B tier groups as set forth by the Iowa Department of Public Health. We ask for anyone who is newly eligible due to underlying medical conditions and under age 65 to have patience as we complete these two previously eligible groups. We anticipate increased vaccine doses in the coming weeks and will work with our local partners to make them available as quickly as possible.

As we work through this transition, individuals age 65 or older can continue to call one of the below numbers to place their name on a vaccine list to be contacted as doses are available:

• Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics: Individuals may call (563) 252-5571 and leave a message with their contact information.
• MercyOne Elkader Medical Center: Individuals may call (563) 245-7089 and leave a message with their contact information.
• Regional Family Health-Strawberry Point:  Individuals may call (563) 927-7575 or visit regmedctr.org/covidvaccinewaitlist

Individuals age 64 and under with qualifying underlying conditions can visit one of the below pharmacy sites to place their name on a vaccine wait list to be contacted as doses become available:

• Hartig Drug Guttenberg:  www.hartigdrug.com
• Guttenberg Pharmacy:  https://www.nightingaledrug.com/
• Clayton Drug: (563) 933-4762 or (563) 245-2530

Again, we appreciate your patience as we work through this transition period. Updates on vaccine availability and county wait list options will be provided as it becomes available.

For additional information on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the CDC website:


Foundation of Cornerstone Communities Awards $10,500 to Support Healthy & Vibrant Communities

The Foundation of Cornerstone Communities is pleased to announce the recipients of the Foundation’s 2021 first quarter grant awards totaling $10,500. These projects, in three different communities, will directly impact the everyday health and vitality of residents served by the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics. 

The City of Guttenberg was awarded a grant in the amount of $4,500 to support the construction of two pickleball courts. The Clayton County Conservation Board was awarded a grant in the amount of $3,000 to support the Osborne Park walking path project. And, the Edgewood Board of Economic Development was awarded a grant in the amount of $3,000 to support the Edgewood Viking Loop Trail project.

Commented Denise Schneider, City Manager, “The City of Guttenberg would like to thank the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities for their generous contribution to our pickleball court project. This project will provide a place of recreation and fitness for anyone young or young-at-heart. Playing pickleball allows you to work on your balance, agility, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination without putting excessive strains on your body. It is organizations like the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities and generous individuals, families, and businesses that make many of our wonderful community projects possible through their generous funding.”

“We are so excited to complete the Easy Walking Path project through the Osborne Native Animal Exhibit and Pioneer Village,” said Molly Scherf, Clayton County Conservation. “Creating a hard-surface pathway will enable all of our visitors the opportunity to enjoy these portions of the park that currently are lime-chipped and hard to navigate when wet for those with mobility issues. This project is being fully funded by grants and private donations. Thank you to the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities for helping us reach our goal,”

Added Michelle Brady, “On behalf of the Edgewood Trail Committee, I would like to thank the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities for their support on the Viking Loop Trail project. The grant application process was smooth and we are grateful for the Foundation’s commitment to bettering our community.”

Do you value your local healthcare? Do want to help keep our communities health and strong? Do you have a project that would support our mission? Become a member of the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities and partner with us to provide funding for grants to organizations who may have projects that align with our mission of creating a healthy and vibrant today. 

Learn more from any board member, or by visiting the website or calling 563-252-5516.

When you make an endowed gift to the Foundation for Cornerstone Communities, it will cost you far less thanks to the generous Endow Iowa 25% state tax credit. Gifts of $50 or more to endowed funds qualify for the Endow Iowa tax credit. Various gift types qualify for the tax credit, including charitable IRA rollovers, gifts of grain, gifts of stock and cash gifts.

COVID-19 Vaccination Scheduling

Due to the overwhelming number of calls for vaccination appointments, we are unable to return all of the calls.  If you have called and left your information, YOU ARE ON THE WAIT LIST.  There is no need to continue calling. We will schedule vaccination appointments from the wait list in the order the calls were received. Appointments will be made based on our weekly allocations from the state. Expect lengthy delays for a call back for your vaccination appointment.

Clayton County is allocated a certain amount of vaccine weekly by the State of Iowa. We have no control over how much we receive and are doing our best to manage the vaccination clinic volumes based on the amount allocated.

If you would like to be placed on the vaccination wait list, please call our scheduling line at 563-252-5571. Again, only one call is necessary. 

GMHC will continue to screen all of our patients and visitors even after you’ve been vaccinated. The vaccine is 95% effective two weeks after the 2nd dose is received. It is still unknown how long the vaccine will provide protection from COVID-19. 

Your best protection from COVID-19 will be a combination of getting vaccinated, and continuing to wear a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often.

Notice to Bidders & Public Hearing

Notice to Bidders – GMHC Surgery Renovation Project

Notice for Public Hearing – GMHC Surgery Renovation Project

Vaccination Information

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

With the arrival of the vaccines, there has been a lot of excitement.

There are currently two vaccines being distributed. It appears there may be a third vaccine available soon.

As the vaccine gets distributed to the states and then to the counties, each county is doing its best to get the vaccine to as many as they can.

The vaccine is typically given in the upper arm. Once given, the recipient waits 15-30 minutes, being observed for any reactions that might be considered an allergic reaction, before going home. The most recent report from the CDC is that there have only been 10 allergic reactions in 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine given. Moderna is the vaccine being used by Clayton County. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage that is not available in Clayton County.

For both Pfizer and Moderna, a second vaccination is required. The booster dose for Pfizer is at 21 days and for Moderna, 28 days. It is important to get the second dose in order to get the full protection of the vaccine.

After receiving a vaccine, it is not unusual to develop side effects over the following 36 hours. The most common side effect is a sore arm, similar to after receiving a tetanus shot. Other side effects include fatigue, feeling tired, body aches, headaches, low grade fevers and chills. Typically the symptoms resolve within 12 hours of starting.

The side effects after the first dose are not necessarily the same after the second dose. Sometimes the side effects are worse, sometimes less. The side effects are a good sign that the body is responding to the vaccine.

Having received both my first and second dose, I can confirm that the symptoms do occur. After the first dose, I had a sore arm within hours of getting the shot. The arm stayed sore for a few days. After the second dose, I felt good, until the next morning. I awoke with a headache, fatigue and body aches. I took Tylenol and went back to bed. By the afternoon, I was feeling much better, and by supper time, all of my symptoms were gone.

Multiple questions have been out there regarding if you should or shouldn’t take Tylenol or Ibuprofen before or after receiving the injection. There is a theory that taking it before the injection may dampen or reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, however, this is not proven. In fact, it has been proven that it does not have an effect on the vaccines given to children. The current recommendation is that if you routinely take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen, continue to take it. If not, avoid taking it prior to the vaccination. Once you have been given

the vaccine, if you start to have symptoms, it is safe and appropriate to take either Tylenol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen or other pain relievers.

If you are concerned about the symptoms you develop after being vaccinated, call and talk with your healthcare provider.

Once you have been vaccinated, it will still be important to wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. The vaccine prevents you from becoming ill if you are exposed to COVID-19, however, you may still become infected with it and be able to spread it to others. When the number of active infections becomes low, and few cases are being seen, we may then be able to get rid of masks.

Clayton County Public Health is working with the Health Care Providers of Clayton County to set up clinics across the county in the coming weeks and months to distribute the vaccine as quickly as they can. Due to limited doses of vaccines available, this process will not go as quickly as we would like, but, will occur as quickly as we are able. Multiple meetings occur every week and sometimes every day, in order to be prepared for the next step or change that may occur.

Please be patient. The goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, and we are committed to doing our best.

Be Well, Be Safe and Be Kind.

Hurry Up and Wait

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Hurry up and wait. We all know what that is like. 

Hurry to the airport to get checked in on time and then wait in line to get through security. Push your way through the crowd to the parking lot, and then get stuck in traffic. Running late to an appointment and then have to wait 30 minutes for the doctor. 

UGGGHHH…we hate it.  But in the end it is worth it.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hurry up and wait, seems to have been a bit of a theme. As we watched this new disease grow in China, we waited to see if it would arrive in the States.

Once it arrived, we watched to see how it would spread.

We hurried to develop plans on how to manage the possibility of an influx of patients. How many could we treat, where would we put an excess number of patients if we had to?

We developed plans for staffing. Crammed to learn all we could from others that were treating this new disease that was like nothing the medical world had ever seen.  

And we waited.

We watched what was happening in New York and Italy and anywhere that was being overwhelmed with patients, knowing we could learn from them.

Then we waited.  

We continued to plan and learn.  And we waited for COVID-19 to arrive in Iowa.  And it did.  

We cared for patients with the tools that we had and waited for treatments to come.  And they did…dexamethasone, remdesivir and convalescent plasma. 

We’ve been waiting for vaccines, and now they are here!

We have been hurrying up and waiting again.  Staff at public health and local medical facilities have been meeting for weeks, going through multiple scenarios of how, who, where and when to administer vaccines.   Multiple meetings weekly have been occurring.  Finalization of plans have been held up awaiting direction from the state as to who can be vaccinated, when and how many vaccines are available to each county.  

The preparation has been worth it.  Each time a call comes down from public health giving the next direction, they have been ready.  

Last week the state gave the go ahead to start vaccinating those 65 years and older, as well as other essential workers in a step-wise fashion.  Now we wait for vaccine. 

As providers in Clayton County, our goal is to vaccinate as many people as we can, as soon as we can.   The limiting factor at this time is the availability of the vaccine.  

So, we will hurry up and wait.  

We will hurry up and plan vaccination clinics, and then wait for vaccines.  

So, be patient.  Know that as soon as we have supplies, we will vaccinate.   If you have signed up on a wait list, trust you will be contacted when clinics can be scheduled.  Due to packaging and the limited doses, vaccination will be by appointment only.  Appointments will be made as vaccine is available.  

It will happen. It is happening.   

In the meantime, even if you have been vaccinated, remember to Wear a mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.  

Be patient as we hurry up and wait.

Be safe, Be well and Be kind, because to quote a friend, “It truly is the right thing to do”.

Vaccine Plan

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Happy New Year!

We made it.  2020 is behind us. But what awaits us in 2021? We may not know, but we will find out. Like it or not here it comes. 

One thing we know is that after waiting and waiting, the vaccine is finally here.  

This may be a good time for a refresher regarding the vaccines. Currently, there are 2 vaccines that have been approved for the prevention of COVID-19, one from Pfizer and the other by Moderna.  

The Pfizer trial included 40,000 volunteers, the Moderna study included 30,000. Of the volunteers that developed COVID-19 after being vaccinated, only 5% of them had received the vaccine, the other 95% that became ill with COVID-19, had received the placebo, or the non-vaccine injection.   

Side effects of receiving the vaccine may occur in some that receive it and could include soreness at the site of the injection, redness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. The side effects are listed as only lasting 24 hours. They are considered a normal reaction.

The technology for these first two vaccines was developed in 1990 and its use as a vaccine, studied for the past 10-15 years.   

The distribution of the vaccine being done in phases.  

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) developed a plan for distribution, based on risk, in order to be efficient and to ensure equity in distribution.    At this time they have made recommendations for the first 3 phases. Each state is then able to use the recommendations to decide on how to role out the vaccination process in their state.

Phase 1a includes health care workers and nursing home/long term care facility residents. Who will be included in Phase 1b, in Iowa, was just announced by The Iowa Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC). They have announced that it should include those over the age of 75 and some groups of essential workers in certain situations. Current direction by the IDAC is that all of Phase 1a needs to be completed before Phase 1b can start.  

As our state continues working feverishly to finish up vaccinating Phase 1a, be assured that Clayton County has been doing their part. Our county received enough vaccine to finish Phase 1a. Our county has frequent meetings with the state and with the multiple health organizations in our county. This has allowed Clayton County to collaborate and efficiently disperse the doses.  

Many counties in Iowa have finished vaccinating Phase 1a.  Now we wait.  We wait until the state lets us know when we can move forward.  

In the meantime, the health care providers in your community are working diligently making plans to vaccinate the citizens of Clayton County.  They are waiting for word from the state and the next delivery of vaccines.  As soon as they get the word that Phase 1b can start, it will happen.  

Be patient. We are all anxious. We are all excited and ready to help make it happen. Your turn to help and be vaccinated, will happen.  

It is important to remember that wearing masks, washing your hands and watching your distance, will need to continue until the country sees a significant drop in cases.  So, hang in there.  Summer is just around the corner.

We truly are in this together.

Be safe, be well and be kind.