As most of the nation continues to clamor for a more rigorous release of the two COVID-19 vaccinations, Isanti County appears to be getting left behind.
Frustrations regarding the availability of the vaccine were aired at the Isanti County Board meeting Jan. 20, while Minnesota has also been sharing its vaccination plans throughout the last week.
“People are definitely anxious for us to get them vaccinated and I understand,” said Community Health Board Administrator Maureen Spike, noting people want to get back to normal as soon as possible. “My little girl just went back to school yesterday, and I would love it if she could just be in school. So, I get the pressure, but we physically don’t have the doses.”
Currently Isanti County is still in Phase 1a, and plans to move into Phase 1b soon (see graphic, page 3). As of the meeting, Isanti County had administered 150 COVID-19 Moderna vaccines, and the plan was to administer an additional 50 during a vaccination clinic Jan. 21, according to Spike.
There have been 1,242 people who have been vaccinated at least once, with 313 people receiving both doses as of Jan. 25, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Health. Vaccines not administered by Isanti County Public Health were administered by Cambridge Medical Center and primary care staff, as well as pharmacies, according to Isanti County Public Information Officer Cassie Shaker.
The county did not receive additional doses of vaccine the week of Jan. 20 and it was not certain whether additional doses would be coming this week, according to Spike.
“But, we are working for redistribution from Cambridge Medical Center to get the Pfizer vaccine from them - 125 doses, and we are planning to administer that next week (Jan. 25-29) at the Sheriff’s Office as a drive through,” Spike added.
She informed the board the county is planning to work with nursing students and staff at Anoka Ramsey Community College to assist in giving vaccinations to the public.
Another important goal is to vaccinate school staff, of which there are about 500 throughout the county, Spike noted.
County Administrator Julia Lines asked Spike to explain when the county knows from MDH when it will get additional vaccine.
After completing the state’s survey regarding the needs in the county, MDH informs the county the number of doses it will receive within 48 hours, and then confirmation it is on its way within 24-48 hours. Once received, the county has 72 hours to administer 90% of the vaccine received, and the remaining 10% within seven days.
“It’s difficult to communicate with the people in these different phases to know when they might get it, because we don’t know when we might have it in our hands,” Lines said. “So, there’s been some frustration among community members and medical providers, because they want to know when they are going to get it, and we wish we could tell them.”
Lines went on to praise the team responsible for managing the entire process. “Instead of saying we can’t do it, I appreciate a team that’s willing to throw together a clinic on days notice,” she said, noting the sheriff’s office has been great at accommodating the clinic. “The amount of planning, and almost last minute planning, that has gone into this is amazing. I so appreciate the willingness of this team to do what they need to do to pick up slack to get this vaccine out.”
Vaccines clinics are currently closed to the public and are invite-only for those in each phase. “Our goal is to continue to vaccinate the phases as instructed by MDH,” Shaker said. MDH prioritizes its distribution using surveys submitted by local public health officials regarding the number of people in each priority group, Shaker added, noting that more information about the allocation of vaccines is available on the MDH website.
“We ask the public to please be patient as we move through the phases,” Shaker said. “Isanti County Public Health is administering the vaccines as quickly as we receive them.”
Minnesota’s vaccination plan
Minnesota launched its COVID-19 vaccine pilot program, partnering with local public health and school districts, Jan. 18, according to a news release from Governor Tim Walz.
While Isanti County is continuing to focus on Phase 1a and moving into Phase 1b, the community vaccination pilot program through the state, focusing on people 65 years or older, school staff, launched nine pilot sites with a limited number of vaccines for those eligible.
The briefing aired grievances with the Trump administration, noting that, despite promises of additional allocations, it has not increased its supply of weekly doses to Minnesota, noting Walz has repeatedly called on the federal government to purchase more vaccine.
The press briefing also informed the public that as supply allows, eligible Minnesotans can also get their vaccinations through their healthcare providers.
In the first week, the community vaccination pilot program administered 13,300 vaccinations, according to a press briefing from Walz Jan. 25.
Frustrations with obtaining vaccine through the federal government continued, and the state updated the process for registering to receive the vaccine at the pilot clinics, according to the briefing.
Those who are eligible must pre-register for random selection. Only 8,000 vaccinations were allocated for those 65 and older this week. A mass vaccination clinic is taking place this weekend at Roy Wilkins Auditorium for school staff and chidcare providers, which will administer 15,000 doses, according to the press briefing. All vaccinations are by appointment only.
For more information regarding how to register for vaccination, Minnesotans are encouraged to visit mn.gov/findmyvaccine or call 833-431-2053.