New vaccine doses dropping in Olmsted County

Public health director credits early numbers as reason for helping fight off variant seen elsewhere.

A COVID-19 vaccination is prepared to be administered. Forum News Service file photo
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Nearing what the public health director has described as the end of the pandemic -- for Olmsted County, at least -- COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered in the county dropped by nearly 50% in recent weeks.

“Doing 5,000 shots a month ago was actually easier than trying to do 100 now,” Public Health Director Graham Briggs told county commissioners at a Tuesday briefing. Health officials are making efforts to reach more of the county's population that so far remains unvaccinated.

The county saw 11,712 shots given during the week of April 4, and the number declined steadily to reach 6,039 last week.

RELATED: Younger teens begin receiving COVID vaccine in Southeast Minnesota

The drops occurred as the number of unvaccinated adults has grown smaller. As of Sunday, 75.1% of eligible county residents had received at least one dose of vaccine, and 69.1% had completed their vaccinations. That means more than half of the county’s total population has been fully vaccinated.


Briggs predicted that numbers could start to climb as more younger residents roll up their sleeves, with last week’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.

“A lot of it relies on the parents,” he said of how many will be vaccinated quickly.

With an estimated 8,000 Olmsted County residents in the new age group, Briggs said the pattern could follow what was seen with older teens: Nearly half were quickly vaccinated, followed by another 10%, and then things slowed down.

He said parents are being encouraged to make appointments for their eligible children, and Olmsted County Public Health is holding a special clinic for the group Thursday.

What happened: Olmsted County Public Health Director Graham Briggs says 75.1% of county residents have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 69.1% have completed their vaccinations. .

Why does this matter: The county continues efforts to track the virus and make sure residents have access to vaccines.

What's next: Vaccinations continue but at a slower pace with about 8,000 12- to 15-year olds now eligible to receive shots.


Briggs credited the region’s quick acceptance to vaccines with helping stave off a recent ripple of illness created by a COVID variant. He said other counties and states saw greater spread than what was seen locally.

“I think vaccination has protected us from a lot of the activity some others have seen,” he said.

Wendy Turri, Rochester’s Public Works director, said this week, a similar trend was seen in wastewater tests used to track signs of COVID spread.

“Prior to the variants hitting, we hit a low,” she said. “Then, the variants hit, and we kind up went back up again, and now we see it going down again.”

The last wastewater tests were conducted a week ago, but more samples will be collected this week, Turri said, adding that Mayo Clinic has indicated it will keep testing local wastewater to track future activity.

Meanwhile, Briggs said some county activity will start to wind down and Tuesday will be his last regularly scheduled COVID report to the county commissioners. He will provide updates as needed.

“We are seeing this pandemic end locally,” he said, pointing to continued decreased spread in the county. “We still have some work ahead. It doesn’t mean we are there yet.”


On Tuesday, the county reported six new confirmed COVID cases, with 87 known active cases in the county. It puts the daily average at approximately 12 during a seven-day period.

The county’s latest records show a 5% positivity rate for COVID tests during the week that started May 3. Approximately 2,700 tests were given that week.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
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