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Renville County reaches first milestone: Immunizing all 1a willing recipients

Renville County has administered COVID-19 vaccinations to all of those in the designated 1a target group, with the exception of those who have opted not to receive them. It is now beginning to vaccinate educators in the 1b designation, but demand far exceeds supply and there is a long waiting list.

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Michelle Erickson, right, administers the new COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Rob Kemp, MD, at the Olivia Hospital & Clinic. It began vaccinating health care workers this week. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hospital & Clinic

OLIVIA — With the exception of those who have voluntarily deferred, Renville County has administered COVID-19 vaccinations to all of those in the first tier or the targeted, 1a group.

“We offered it. I’m not saying everyone is taking it,” Jill Bruns, director of Renville County Public Health told the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

At the time she spoke, 877 Renville County residents had received their first dose of the vaccine and 20 had received their second. The number of fully vaccinated will climb this week. The Olivia Hospital and Clinic is scheduled to begin administering the second dose to its health care workers who received the first dose, according to the public health director.

Overall, six percent of the county’s population has received some level of protection against COVID-19 through vaccinations.

Bruns said all of the county’s residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. The Thrifty White, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies provided the vaccinations to long-term care residents under a federal contract.

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She said the ability to vaccinate all of the frontline health care workers wanting the vaccine is a tribute to teamwork. The Olivia Hospital and Clinics worked with the public health office to make sure all of the available doses of vaccine were administered.

Bruns said the county is now ready to begin moving forward with administering vaccines to those in the 1b or second tier. She expects new guidelines from the federal government on who will be prioritized for 1b vaccinations.

At this point, the public health office is overseeing a clinic in the County Office Building and will begin administering vaccinations to educators in preK-grade 12 and child care providers. The public health office worked with the local school districts to schedule vaccinations for educators.

There is not enough vaccine to immunize all of those targeted in the 1b designation. There is a “long waiting list,” said Bruns. “We knew it wouldn’t be enough, but it’s a start,” she said.

Each school district will also be able to designate five educators to be eligible for vaccinations in Marshall as part of the Minnesota Department of Health’s pilot program to expand vaccinations to the general public over age 65.

“Bottom line, the vaccine demand far outpaces the supply,” said Bruns during discussions with the commissioners. She said this week’s start of vaccinations for 1b recipients will be a test run to see how the county can manage immunizations for large numbers.

In response to questions, she said some of those who have deferred when offered the shots are younger persons who are healthy and don’t feel they are at great risk. But by and large, she said the number one reason some people have opted out is due to their concern about whether the vaccine might affect fertility.

Renville County has reported 1,375 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and has experienced 40 deaths due to it, according to Bruns. The county has seen a recent decline in the rate of its spread, with a case rate of 33.54 per 10,000 as compared to over 260 per 10,000 in mid-December. The county recorded 49 new cases in the last two weeks.

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Jill Bruns

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