MARINETTE, Wis.— Alan Young of Athelstane got his first of two vaccination shots Friday at a Bellin Health clinic in Marinette.

“I’m a little relieved because I don’t know how freely these vaccines are going to keep rolling in,” he said.

Marinette is one of two small cities in northeast Wisconsin, that Green Bay-based Bellin Health is using as a hub to offer the vaccine to people living in small, largely rural, communities. 

“It allows the communities that are a little further north — sometimes up to an hour, hour-and-half drive to Green Bay — to be able to be serviced very local,” said Julie Bieber, vice president of Oconto Hospital. “It really gives patients a sense of security to know that they can get their vaccinations right in their own community.”

Michael Werner was recently vaccinated in Oconto and is glad to see the service close to home.

“Anywhere in Green Bay is easily 30 to 40 minutes away. Then you’ve got to find the hospital, wait your turn and come home,” he said. “Just getting that vaccine could be a half-day trip… Having that availability just makes your life easier.”

Bieber says Bellin is working with both county health departments on plans to bring vaccines to even smaller communities — a task fraught with the logistics of moving and storing a relatively delicate medication. Help from state-operated mobile vaccination units is expected to help the process.

“Both Oconto and Marinette counties are elongated and they stretch for quite some way,” she said. ”We want to make sure we can service patients in those more distant locations.”

The goal is to get vaccines to everyone who wants one. But that’s going to take time and patience. 

“We are doing the very best we can, and as soon as we have the vaccinations and can open up appointments, we will do that,” Bieber said. “Unfortunately, calling multiple times isn’t going to get it here faster. What it does is it really bogs down the process for people to get in when they need to.”

Vaccination appointments are required at both locations and can be made through a MyBellinHealth account or by phone at (920) 445-7313. Both services are experiencing a high level of traffic.