As Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced new priorities this past week in the COVID-19 vaccination process, Aitkin County continued to try to get vaccine to those most in need.
At a press conference Feb. 25, Walz announced that at least 70% of Minnesotans age 65 and older will get at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine before the state moves on to the next phase of vaccinations.
Based on current projections, the next group of Minnesotans eligible for a vaccine will begin getting inoculated in April, and every Minnesotan should be able to get a vaccine by this summer, according to Walz.
So far, 42% of Minnesotans age 65 or older have received at least one shot, according to state estimates, the Star Tribune reported. The state is also vaccinating school and child care employees in the current phase, which came after health care workers and long-term care residents were inoculated.
The next phase, once 70% of seniors get their first shot, will include individuals with specific high risk conditions, including sickle cell disease, Down syndrome and those being actively treated for cancer. Food processing plant workers will also be included in the early spring phase.
Aitkin County Public Health reported that, as of the end of last week, it had delivered 1,330 doses of vaccine and Riverwood Healthcare had given 2,705 doses.
“Local vaccine providers continue to focus on and prioritize individuals in Phase 1a (mostly health care and long-term care facilities) – those 65 and older, child care providers and preK-12 staff and teachers,” said Aitkin County Public Health Supervisor Erin Melz.
Melz said that vaccine continues to arrive in Minnesota in “very limited supply,” and then is distributed according to the priorities established in the state.
While progress is being made on delivering the vaccine – 43.3% of the county’s 65-plus age group has received at least one vaccine dose – Melz said there are no complete numbers of who is declining the vaccine. According to her, Riverwood has reported nearly 90% of its staff has been vaccinated, while the county’s school districts are reporting about 50% of staff receiving the vaccine.
Statewide, Melz said, data shows 86% of long-term care facility residents have received at least one dose, while 50% of the staff have as well.
In Aitkin County, the number of COVID-19 cases has dropped significantly. The current case load is at its lowest since October, sitting at 16.42 per 10,000 in the latest reading – Jan. 31-Feb. 13.
Riverwood CMO Dr. David Taylor said that while the reasons aren’t clear, Aitkin County managed to avoid the problems that surges caused in other states.
The uncertain nature of how the virus is spread also seems to have benefited Aitkin County.
“Whatever the ultimate reasons are, I can only say I am glad it is working out this way right now,” Taylor said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.