Gundersen Health System offers new COVID-19 vaccine opportunity, experts warn against Delta variant

La Crosse doctors want more people vaccinated before fall begins to prevent future spikes

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – People can get their COVID-19 vaccine through Family Medicine appointments at Gundersen Health System’s Onalaska clinic. Doctors are stressing the vaccine’s importance as the delta variant spreads in La Crosse.

Summer feels more like the season did before the one that sat quietly last year. The return of Riverfest filled Riverside Park again and we just found out Oktoberfest is a go for 2021. However, Gundersen’s vaccine expert Dr. Raj Naik said another strain of the COVID-19 virus is on their radar.

“We’re not done with COVID yet,” Naik said.

This is why the health system stresses COVID-19 vaccine importance. The Delta variant is here to stay.

“We know that it probably represents a majority of the current or new infections that’s going around,” Naik said.

Naik said this strain is 50 percent more contagious and likely more severe in terms of landing someone in the hospital or taking more lives.

“A virus is just looking for hosts and looking for opportunities to mutate and become more, what we call, fit,” he said. “When those mutations occur, it makes it worse for the host.”

Nearly 54 percent of La Crosse County residents completed their vaccine series according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Service Tuesday. Naik would like to see that climb to prevent a spike when children go back to school and we all gather indoors to escape the cold this winter.

“The vaccines have now been given in hundreds of millions of doses and have proven to be safe and effective,” Naik said.

Gundersen will soon offer its vaccine at pediatrics appointments and during primary care appointments in La Crosse, Sparta, and Tomah, as well as its locations in Minnesota and Iowa.

Anyone age 12 and older, patients or non-patients, can schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at Gundersen.  Walk-in vaccine appointments are available at the Gundersen Onalaska Clinic 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays (Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson both days), and Thursdays (Pfizer, Moderna).

Adult Gundersen patients can walk in, schedule their appointment through MyChart, or call the scheduling line at (608) 775-6829. Adult non-patients can walk in or call the scheduling line at (608) 775-6829, option 2, for a vaccine appointment.

Patients under age 18 need a parent or guardian’s consent in person or by calling the Gundersen scheduling line at (608) 775-6829.