ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Weather-related delays caused Mayo Clinic to briefly dip into second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines last week, according to Dr. Abinash Virk, co-chair of the clinic's COVID- 19 vaccine allocation and distribution workgroup. Virk spoke at a press conference Thursday, February 25.
The health care giant has since replenished its doses and avoided most cancellations, however.
The clinic has now vaccinated 54,000 employees with one dose in the Midwest, and 34,000, or half its staff, have now received both doses. At this same time, the Clinic has vaccinated 33,000 patients across its properties in Southwest Wisconsin, Rochester and Southwest and Southeast Minnesota.
Mayo is currently offering vaccines to invited patients between ages 70 to 74 who have been seen in the last two years in the Rochester region. This week it was given 5,363 doses for its Midwest sites, of which 2,036 were allocated to Rochester, 1,392 to southwest Minnesota and 1,932 to southeast Minnesota.
The news comes as Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced Minnesota will continue to focus only on vaccinating those age 65 and older and educators and child care workers, at least until 70% of the age group has been given a vaccine.
"There was a lot of discussion that went into those decisions," Virk said. "Hopefully by the end of March, 70% of the population over 65 will be vaccinated so that we can open up vaccines to those under 65."
In a rollout of its long-awaited 1b strategy, the state then plans to focus on younger people 45 and older with one or more underlying conditions, some essential workers and even younger adults with two underlying conditions. After that, persons in their 50s or much younger adults with one underlying condition will become elgibible.
Essential workers then follow this group. It's a timeline that is expected to take until early summer.
In shooting for 70% coverage of older citizens statewide, more than 43% of those 65 and older have now gotten their shots. Olmsted County has now given one shot to 50% of its residents over 65, with other counties in the region at around 30%, according to Amy Evans of Olmsted County Public Health.
Owing to its high percentage of health care workers who were offered vaccines early, Olmsted County has double the vaccination rate found statewide, and is in the top five counties in the state for vaccinations. Statewide, 14% of the population has now received their first doses and 7% have completed both. In Olmsted County, 26% have received one dose and almost 18% have had both doses.
In an effort to prepare for contact those who fall below the currently targeted age range, the state last week opened a vaccine connector sign-up program, and 3,000 people have utilized it so far in Olmsted County.
Health officials are enthusiastic about increasing shipments as a Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to begin arriving by the end of next week. It is a one-shot vaccine and does not require special refrigeration.
Though its efficacy is not known with variants, the Johnson & Johnson shot has 72% efficacy in the variants now predominant in the United States overall, 85% efficacy against serious complications such as hospitalization, Virk said.
Virk described the emergence of new data suggesting "a degree of asymptomatic coverage" among vaccine patients given the Moderna vaccine, and said that this type of data could ultimately resolve the question of whether those who are vaccinated can take off masks.
Locally, Olmsted Medical Center provided 420 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday to those 75 and older, and expects to provide similar numbers on Friday.
With 540 doses slated for the health system next week, it expects to to begin vaccinating those 70 and older next week. As it contacts people in that age range, it also invites anyone in the same household over 65.
Public health officials in the county touted having conducted 8,500 interviews and reaching out to 18,000 close contacts over the past year, having collected 75,600 samples for testing between March and November.
CORRECTION Feb. 26, 2021: As Olmsted Medical Center begins vaccinating those 70 and older next week, they are also inviting anyone in the same household over 65. The age of the other household member was wrong in an earlier version of this story. It has been corrected. We regret the error.