Availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for the general public is still weeks out as the last of the first group of priority recipients are expected to gain access to the vaccine in Olmsted County by the end of the week.
The Minnesota Department of Health is coordinating the release and distribution of the vaccine, and is making sure the first group, which includes health care workers who deal directly with COVID-19 patients, emergency room and urgent care staff, and long-term care facility staff members all have access to the vaccine first.
The second group of health care workers to receive vaccinations includes assisted-living staff, dialysis staff, ophthalmologists, dental staff, school nurses and other medical staff not included in the first group.
Following that, essential workers, such as police, firefighters and schoolteachers, as well as people age 75 and older, will have access to the vaccine.
Getting through the first two groups presents a challenge, said Amy Evans, emergency preparedness coordinator for Olmsted County Public Health.
Some organizations and groups may require a vaccination clinic or coordination with a pharmacy to vaccinate employees or staff.
“Are we vaccinating 10 people, or are we vaccinating 200 people?” Evans said. “That will help us decide what method to deploy.”
As of Thursday, 7,193 people in Olmsted County and 91,174 people across the state have received the vaccination.
However, vaccinations depend on how quickly vaccines are distributed, Evans added. The large number of health care workers adds another challenge to the process.
“Right now, our biggest challenge in our region is still waiting for vaccinations in order to give them,” she said.
Evans said public health finished administering vaccinations to EMS staff this week. That doesn’t mean all EMS staff have accepted the vaccination or have been able to be vaccinated, but that all county EMS staff have been offered or have had access to the vaccine, she clarified.
County public health officials said they weren’t sure how many people who have had access to the vaccine have declined it.
Kari Etrheim, communications coordinator for Olmsted County Public Health, said Mayo Clinic department leaders report high cooperation among their staff.
“They’re seeing 100% fill rate and very little hesitancy in filling those slots,” she said.
Although first-priority health care workers are still being vaccinated, efforts for vaccinating the second group have begun, Evans confirmed Thursday.
“There’s definitely an overlap,” she said. “There’s not a hard and fast black line.”