The final Olmsted County teachers and child care providers are expected to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines this week.
“We believe, based on the doses we’ve been allocated this week, that public health is going to be able to complete offering vaccines to all child care and education staff in the county by the end of this week,” Olmsted County Public Health Director Graham Briggs told county commissioners Tuesday.
The goal follows completion of efforts targeting health care providers, as well as long-term care staff and residents.
“This doesn’t mean everyone has been vaccinated, but we’ve offered vaccines to everyone in that group,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said clinics, hospitals and pharmacies have been targeting residents 65 and older.
“About 60 percent of our 65-plus population has already received a dose,” he said.
The local vaccination rate compares to 52.6 percent of the same population statewide.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz outlined a plan last week to move forward with vaccinations for more essential workers once at least 70 percent of the currently targeted populations are vaccinated, and Briggs said that time is near.
“We are starting to plan now quite a bit about what is next,” he said.
As of Sunday, 43,253 Olmsted County residents had received a single dose of vaccine, with 31,389 receiving both required doses. That’s 27.9 percent of the county population with a single dose, compared to the state rate of 16.3 percent.
With a third vaccine in play, Briggs said local vaccination schedulers and clinics are ready and capable of increasing the number of injections done each week.
“We’ve done up to 10,000 (in a single week) now, but we could probably do between 30,000 to 50,000 pretty easily between all of us,” he said, pointing to health care providers and pharmacies, in addition to state and county public health staff.
Minnesota is expected to receive 45,000 of the 3.9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being shipped this week, and Briggs called it a “game changer.” Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two shots and must be stored in super cold environments, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot and can be stored in a regular refrigerator.
He also cautioned that the emergence of a third vaccine doesn’t mean it’s time to let guards down, since a national increase in cases is being seen and surrounding Midwest states have reported an uptick in COVID-19 spread.
While Olmsted County hasn’t seen similar infection increases, Briggs said some of Minnesota’s border counties have seen the virus spread across state lines.
“It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, and I’m a little bit concerned about it,” he said.
The county currently has seven people hospitalized with COVID-19 infection, but none require an intensive care bed.
Olmsted County Public Health reported nine new confirmed cases Tuesday, with 113 active cases among residents. The average incidence rate has dropped to 5.9 people per 100,000 residents.
Briggs said continued precautions and efforts to vaccinate residents at the highest risk will be critical to continue reducing infection numbers.
“We’re in this race right now to get there before the virus does,” he said of efforts to reach as many people as possible.