WILLMAR — There are still approximately 3,000 health care workers employed in Kandiyohi County waiting to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning it will take more time before the county is ready to open up vaccinations to more people.

Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Director Jennie Lippert shared that news at Tuesday's meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

"We are here, we are ready, but right now we are still working in that 1a priority group," Lippert said.

The first people to start the two-shot vaccination series were hospital personnel working directly with COVID-19 units, then those who provide patient services or handle infectious materials. The third tier of the first priority group are health care workers in other settings such as dermatologists, mortuary personnel, dental offices, home health settings, pharmacies and medical waste handlers. Staff and residents of group homes are also included in this third tier of the first group.

"We need to finish our 1a priority group before we can look at this next phase," Lippert said.

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According to Minnesota Department of Health data on Tuesday, 1,570 people in Kandiyohi County have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Health care workers who are employed in Kandiyohi County but live in another county, will be counted toward their county of residence vaccination total.

Lippert said how fast a county gets through the first priority group depends on how many people are in that group and how much vaccine the county has. How many vaccines a county receives is based on the adult population, not how many persons are in a priority group.

"We in Kandiyohi County have a lot of people in that 1a priority group. It is going to take us more weeks and more vaccines," Lippert said. "There are discrepancies in terms of where counties and local public health are, getting the vaccines to priority groups."

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended nationally expanding the pool of eligible people who can receive the vaccination to all those over the age of 65 and those between the ages of 16 and 65 with underlying health conditions. Minnesota hopes to soon give shots to those 75 and older, plus teachers and child care workers. If the state was to start following the new CDC recommendations it would add approximately 2.2 million people to the waiting list. Lippert reported the state only gets about 60,000 vaccine doses a week, and each person requires two shots.

"We have a long way to go before we reach the general public to get vaccinated," Lippert said.

When vaccinations do become available to the general public, Kandiyohi County Public Health will be ready.

"We have staff available, we have sites and locations and plans. We have volunteers and we have community partners that we can call on for help when we are at the point to do mass vaccinations," Lippert said.

As of today, Kandiyohi County does not have a waiting list for people wanting vaccinations. When the time comes Public Health, along with Carris Health, will notify the public at the present.

"Just be watching out for communication from our office for when more vaccine is made available," Lippert said.

Centra Care/Carris Health said in a news release Tuesday that it is focused on vaccinating health care workers in Kandiyohi County.

"We are dependent on a limited vaccine supply and undetermined allotment number," the Carris Health news release read.

At this time, Carris Health is not scheduling any vaccination for people in the Phase 1b group.

"We have the plans in place to continue vaccinating and to expand upon our vaccinations when we have more vaccine available," said Dr. Jill Amsberry, pediatrician at CentraCare and part of the CentraCare COVID-19 Vaccine Planning Team.

For related stories see Coronavirus.