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Vaccinations moving at good clip in Renville County

Renville County is seeking a 50 to 70 percent acceptance rate for the COVID-19 vaccine among the first targeted recipients. Renville County Public Health and the Olivia Hospital & Clinic are working in partnership to administer vaccinations to frontline health care workers as Phase 1a or first-tier recipients. Vaccinations at nursing homes, also part of Phase 1a, are being conducted under a federal contract with private pharmacies.

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Chelsey Elfering, left, administers the new COVID-19 vaccine to Amy Gasca, licensed practical nurse, making her among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Olivia Hospital & Clinic. The health care system began vaccinating its frontline workers this week with some of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the nation. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hospital & Clinic

OLIVIA — Vaccinations of frontline healthcare workers in Renville County are moving at a steady clip, with 250 having received their first dose by the end of the day Tuesday, according to Jill Bruns, director of Renville County Public Health.

Bruns told the Renville County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday that there is an ample supply for all of the targeted Phase 1a, or tier one, recipients willing to be vaccinated.

Currently, about 50 to 70 percent of those offered the vaccines have accepted it. The vast majority of those declining it at this point are taking a “wait and see” approach, she said. “There are some firm no’s. Most people are accepting it,” she said.

The public health director is among those who have been vaccinated. She said she has experienced very little in the way of side effects.

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Jill Bruns West Central Tribune file photo

The first recipients are workers in the Olivia Hospital & Clinic, certified emergency management services personnel, workers in dialysis and other outreach therapies and at the Fairfax Clinic. The county is also reaching out to workers in mental and behavioral health, home care, dental and pharmacy services and those performing community vaccinations.

Vaccinations at nursing homes — also part of Phase 1a — are being conducted under a federal contract with private pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens and Thrifty White, she told the commissioners.

Bruns said she is hopeful that supplies will arrive to begin administering vaccinations to those targeted as Phase 1b or second tier recipients in about three weeks. The next round of targeted recipients will include those in education, public utilities, police and fire, correctional officers, agricultural and food production, transportation, funeral homes and daycares.

In response to questions, Bruns said she did not know if the agricultural and food production category includes individual farmers, but she does believe it includes workers at processing plants.

The commissioners said they would like to make certain that the list includes the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, which is the county’s largest employer. A shutdown there would adversely affect the cooperative’s farmers as well as the overall economy of the county, they noted.

Commissioner Randy Kramer pointed out that an outbreak last year at the Seneca processing plant in Glencoe meant that farmers were left with vegetables that could not be processed.

Bruns said the third round of vaccinations will be aimed at individuals with medical risks and age 65 and over.

The vaccinations are taking place as the case rate of COVID-19 continues a decline in the county following the surge that occurred in October, November and December.

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As of Tuesday, the county had recorded 1,325 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 77 current cases considered infectious. The county has experienced 39 deaths due to the virus. The case rate has declined from around 260 per 10,000 population in mid-December to 52.7 per 10,000, according to the public health director.

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