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The last couple weeks, we have been running updated numbers of people in Isanti and Chisago Counties who have received at least one dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccinations. And I must say, in researching those numbers, I become extremely frustrated.

Each week, Isanti County in particular is at the bottom of the state as far as percentages of the population vaccinated by a wide margin. As the Twin Cities news stations report the state as a whole is at around 10% vaccinated, we here in Isanti County still lag far behind at 6% - which granted, is almost double from two weeks ago when it was at 3.2%, but with those small of numbers, it doesn’t take much to double the numbers.

What makes it even more frustrating is looking at the top two counties, Cook at 32.8% and Mahnomen at 29.1%. I get that those two counties have comparatively smaller populations, which would make their percentages increase at a higher rate, but at five times faster? Both of those counties have roughly one-seventh the number of people as Isanti County. But when you look at the number of doses distributed, they’ve received almost exactly half as many.

I blame several things for this discrepancy. The biggest is the fact the whole vaccine distribution is so diluted and scatter-shotted. The federal government is dolling out vaccines to certain places. The state government is handing it out to counties, healthcare facilities, congregate living institutions, pharmacies, along with creating multiple of their own vaccination events. With all of those different destinations, its no wonder nobody seems to get enough doses.

Compounding the problem is the method of deciding who gets how many doses is so convoluted, nobody can anticipate how many doses they should be getting. 

It seems the state especially is overly-concerned that people get vaccinated in the “proper” order. This whole lumping the entire state’s population into different “phases” is ridiculous. It’s like they are paranoid that mobs carrying torches and pitchforks will descend on them if word got out that some 40-year-olds in one part of the state who aren’t “frontline” workers received the vaccine before 75-year-olds in another part of the state.

In reality, though, this paranoia is simply creating a different sort of “mob,” as every sort of group of people clamor to be moved up to the front of the line. I have heard people advocate that teachers, retail employees, school kids, people with Down Syndrome, even professional athletes should be given higher priority. I’m not saying their claims aren’t valid, but it’s impossible to move everyone to the front of the line.

My solution is simple. You take the percentage of state’s total population each county has, and that’s the percentage of doses that county gets. If a certain county has 1% of the state’s total population and the state receives 100,000 doses in a given week, then that county should get 1,000 doses. And if that county only has 900 residents who fit into the first phase, well that just means that county can move on to the second phase.

Whenever health experts talk about creating “herd immunity,” they talk about a given percentage of the total population being vaccinated. They don’t break it down further than that. So if our ultimate goal for COVID is herd immunity, why are we slowing down the process by insisting everyone everywhere gets vaccinated in the “proper” order?

BILL STICKELS III is editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at 763-689-1181 ext. 107 or editor@countystar.com. 

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