There is more news on the Covid-19 vaccine front. On March 9, Governor Walz announced that the state will expand Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to the next two phases for Minnesotans.

Among those now eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b Tier 2 populations include Minnesotans of any age with specific underlying health conditions, including sickle cell, Down Syndrome, active cancer treatment,  immunocompromised   from organ transplant, oxygen-dependent chronic lung or heart conditions.  

This vaccination phase also includes those with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk for Covid-19 illness, and food processing plant workers.

Phase 1b Tier 3 populations now eligible for the vaccine include those age 45 and older with ONE or more underlying medical conditions; or, age 16-44 with TWO or more underlying medical conditions.

Medical conditions for Phase 1b Tier 3 include active cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Type 1 or 2 diabetes, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, HIV, bone marrow disease, chronic steroids for more than 30 days, immunodeficiency disease, or taking immunosuppressive medications; obesity with a body mass index greater than 30; pregnancy; and sickle cell disease.

Other groups in this phase include Minnesotans age 50 years and older in multi-generational housing; and essential frontline workers such as agricultural, airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail, food service, judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, and U.S. Postal Service workers.

Aitkin County Public Health staff will continue to do outreach to and provide Covid-19 vaccinations for specific groups, including essential workers for post offices, local manufacturers and food-related businesses--bars and restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and food shelves; and youth camps.

Riverwood Healthcare Center will offer Covid-19 vaccinations to cover age or health-specific groups. Riverwood will vaccinate those ages 16 to 17 who are now eligible due to specific health conditions with the Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccine approved for this age group.

“We are pleased to help more and more of our patients and residents get vaccinated,” said Dr. David Taylor, Riverwood’s chief medical officer. “Any seniors who have not yet been vaccinated will continue to get first priority for appointments as they are at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19.”

For vaccine appointment information for yourself or your eligible employees, call Aitkin County Public Health at 218-927-7200.

For a vaccine appointment with Riverwood Healthcare, call 844-428-1323. Both organizations are available to take calls from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“Public health officials are urging those who have a Covid-19 vaccination appointment to keep it,” Erin Melz, Aitkin County public health supervisor, said. “However, if the appointment is a long distance away from home and it’s more convenient to get your shot locally, feel free to cancel it but be sure to contact the scheduling organization so appointment slots can open for others.”

Melz added: “Individuals are encouraged to take whichever vaccine option they are offered as there is no medical preference for who receives which vaccine, unless there is a personal preference or the individual is 16 or 17 years old.”

There will be no charge for the vaccine and insurance will not be billed.

As additional vaccine becomes available from the Minnesota Department of Health, Riverwood and Aitkin County Public Health will provide further updates on who is eligible to receive a vaccination.

Their websites also offer vaccine updates and information at www.co.aitkin.mn.us or www.riverwoodhealthcare.org.

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