WILLMAR — Amongst the dozens of cars moving through the garage, as people came to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, Kandiyohi County Public Health welcomed special visitors to the evening drive-thru vaccination clinic May 13 at the Kandiyohi County Rescue Squad building.

In an effort to gather information on how public health departments across the country are administering millions of COVID-19 vaccines to the general public, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent representatives to Minnesota.

"We were one of their chosen sites," and the only one in greater Minnesota, said Jennie Lippert, Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services director.

As more than 200 people received either their first or second COVID-19 vaccine shot, the CDC was seeing just how the county's clinics worked.

Lippert said Kandiyohi County is one of the few using drive-thru clinics the CDC saw. The reason the county went that direction was to speed up the vaccination process.

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"We could do a large amount of vaccinations in a short amount of time," Lippert said, adding the CDC was very complimentary about how the county was doing its clinics.

Lippert said the CDC was gathering information for future pandemics or mass vaccination needs.

"So they could take data back with them," Lippert said.

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The drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic the CDC visited in Willmar could be one of the last such clinics Kandiyohi County Public Health does. Lippert said the department has been re-evaluating its vaccination plans in an effort to get more shots in arms.

The rate of vaccination has slowed in the county and the percentage of eligible county residents who have started the vaccination series has hovered around 50 percent for the last few weeks.

"We really are encouraging the vaccines," Lippert said. "We would like to see increases in our vaccination numbers."

Instead of just having a drive-thru clinic in Willmar, Public Health is visiting smaller towns in the county. This week they visited Raymond, Blomkest and Atwater.

"We're taking vaccines on the road," Lippert said. "To reach different pockets in our county."

Public Health will also have a weekly clinic every Wednesday afternoon at the Willmar Education and Arts Center at 611 Fifth St. S.W. in Willmar. Both advance appointments and walk-up visitors are welcome.

"It is a nice location," Lippert said. "Hopefully we get more people who work and live in the downtown area."

More information on the Public Health clinics can be found on the county's website at kcmn.us.

Lippert is also asking for those in the public who have been vaccinated to share their stories in hopes it moves other people to get the shots.

"People who are vaccinated, we would love for them to promote that," Lippert said.

It is also important for those who have not been vaccinated to continue following CDC recommendations, including mask wearing and social distancing.

"So we can ultimately keep our community safe," Lippert said.