vaccine pic

Waseca County Sheriff’s Sergeant Dave Melchert received the COVID-19 vaccination from a public health nurse on Jan. 6. Fifty emergency responders were vaccinated that day. (Photo courtesy of Waseca County Public Health)

Waseca Public Health has been fielding calls from residents about the COVID-19 vaccine after state officials announced that older residents can begin receiving it.

“They’re kind of encumbered with phone calls right now and we don’t necessarily have a solution for that at the moment because we don’t have any vaccine to give to anyone,” County Administrator Michael Johnson told the Waseca County Board Tuesday.

Waseca Public Health Director Sarah Berry said it’s good to see so much interest in the vaccine.

“I wish we had a bigger supply to match that interest,” she told the Waseca County News.

The lack of vaccines is a “bottleneck supply-and-demand” issue that has been exacerbated by Gov. Tim Walz and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm’s announcements earlier this week that the state would begin allowing people older than 65 to receive the vaccine, Johnson said.

Walz announced Monday that the state would begin offering the vaccine to residents older than 65, educators and childcare workers at nine sites in a pilot program, including North Mankato, Rochester and Marshall.

Berry is encouraging Waseca residents to try to receive a vaccination at one of the state’s sites and to have patience because it’s going to be difficult due to the lack of availability right now. Waseca County receives shipments of the vaccine either every other week or every third week because it’s a less populous county, Berry said. County public health officials have been vaccinating first responders. As the vaccine becomes more readily available, the county will be able to start holding larger vaccination clinics, but it hasn’t received guidance from the state on that yet, Berry said.

In the meantime, residents should continue to mitigate the virus by wearing masks, washing their hands and social distancing, as well as using technology. Residents should also try to get outside when the weather allows to help with their mental health, she said.

In other news, Waseca County is looking to hire a new county engineer after the county board approved the nonrenewal of Nathan Richman’s contract as county engineer on Tuesday. His current contract began in May 2017 and was set to end in May 2021. Johnson and Human Resources Director Melissa Sexton didn’t return the Waseca County News’ requests for more information.

The county is required to either have an engineer on staff or a contract in place for engineering services, and Waseca County will seek to contract with a neighboring county’s engineer until a new Waseca County engineer is in place, Johnson told the county board. The county has an upcoming seal coating project on about 18 miles of roadway that a county engineer needs to sign off on in the coming week or else the project will be delayed, he said.

Reach Associate Editor Lisa Kaczke at 507-444-2371. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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