Virus Outbreak Biden

In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sit in a tray in a vaccination room at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Nicollet County Public Health has gotten started on vaccinating the local community for COVID-19, but it’s slow going to start.

The county has so far administered the vaccine to 100 people in the Phase 1A group; that includes health workers, first responders, and the vaccinators themselves. Local pharmacies have also distributed vaccines in various long-term care centers in the area.

“So far, it has gone well, just slower than we had hoped, based on the supply we’ve received,” said Nicollet County Public Health Director Cassandra Sassenberg on the vaccination process. “We’re planning to vaccinate another 100 people next week. Our population in phase 1A is larger than one might expect, because we have a number of long-term care facilities.”

Sassenberg said the county has no timeline for getting the majority of the community vaccinated, as it is completely dependent on supply and demand. The state of Minnesota has not received ample doses to this point, and it will take many months at this rate. Leaders, however, are hoping supply will arrive at a faster rate soon.

Sassenberg also noted that Public Health staff has monitored those who have received the shots, and none have showed any significant side effects.

The team is learning how to most effectively distribute the vaccinations. It started with small clinics, keeping people distanced throughout. But staff will move forward with a pod approach, where a small group of people are vaccinated at once. This approach will allow 100 people to be vaccinated at a single clinic.

“We’re learning as we go,” she said.

Pilot program

The state of Minnesota is piloting a community COVID-19 vaccine program, partnering with local public health and school districts, to place nine pilot sites across the state, and Nicollet County will take part.

These pilot sites will initially serve adults 65 years of age and older and pre-kindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff, and childcare workers. This pilot program aims to increase vaccination capacity in communities across the state and to prepare for the future when more vaccine is made available from the federal government.

Nicollet County Health and Human Services has been given the opportunity to partner with the Minnesota Department of Health, Independent School District 77 (Mankato Public Schools), and the State Emergency Operations Center to participate in this project.

Various educators, administrators and other school workers from school districts in the area will be assigned to the pilot site for vaccinations. Minnesotans age 65 and older, meanwhile, can registers for the opportunity to make an appointment by visiting mn.gov/vaccine or by calling 612-426-7230 or toll free, 1-833-431-2053. Minnesotans should attempt to make an appointment online before dialing the call center. Minnesotans who cannot immediately make an appointment may be able to sign up for a waitlist.

Available appointments will refresh every Tuesday at noon. Minnesotans will have the opportunity to schedule appointments for both their first and second doses of vaccine.

“Our team is excited to be a part of this pilot project,” said Cassandra Sassenberg, Nicollet County Health and Human Services Director. “We are eager to participate in any event that assists in vaccinating Minnesota’s population as quickly as possible. We’re also using this as a learning experience so that we can be best prepared for future mass vaccination events.”

Sassenberg further stated, “These clinics will be in addition to, not instead of, our regular vaccine clinics. We want to emphasize that we will continue to simultaneously complete vaccinations for people who fall into Phase 1a and each phase to follow. Up until this point, Nicollet County Health and Human Services had received only 100 doses of vaccine, which were administered earlier this month through a series of smaller clinics. As we receive additional vaccine, we will continue to schedule clinics and communicate with our residents.”

“We ask for patience,” said Bree Allen, Nicollet County Health Promotion and Prevention Services Supervisor. “As we learn more, we will ensure everyone who is eligible for a vaccine knows how, where, and when they can get their shots. Until then, we must all continue taking important precautions to help slow the spread of the virus. This includes wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, social distancing and limiting gatherings.”

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