Kittson County awaits more vaccine, as case rates remain low

 

A registered nurse at the hospital, Jennifer Hanson became the first person to get the Pfizer COVID vaccine at Kittson Healthcare on December 28. (submitted photo)

As of a February 4 conversation, Cindy Urbaniak, Kittson County Nursing Home Administrator and Director of Public Health, said they hadn’t been receiving vaccines as readily lately from the state.

“We (Kittson Healthcare)… have not received any vaccine this week,” Urbaniak said.

Urbaniak provided an update on the vaccination process, including not just the vaccine supply level, but also the total vaccinations administered so far, the vaccine interest level, where the county is at in terms of phases, and where people can look to get a vaccination. She also briefly discussed the county’s COVID case levels.

Kittson Healthcare administered its first round of vaccinations to its health care workers during the last week in December. Before getting the vaccine, it sent out a survey to its staff to give the state an estimated number of staff wanting to receive the vaccine. Its initial request came in at 85 staff doses.

“Some staff had chosen to receive it, some wanted to wait, some were declining,” Urbaniak said.

After these individuals who wanted to wait saw how the vaccine impacted those who did take it, Urbaniak noticed a change.

“I think more have now stepped forward and want to receive vaccinations,” Urbaniak said.

As of February 3, a total of 527 doses of the vaccine had been administered in the county, including the second round of doses to some.

In terms of vaccination phases, Urbaniak explained how the county is at the mercy of the Minnesota Department of Health.

“They’re working frantically down there trying to get vaccine to public health. And federal government… looks like (it’s) shipping directly to pharmacies,” Urbaniak said. “And so… we’re kind of waiting for the Department of Health to tell us when vaccine will be delivered to us. And so it’s really a week by week situation.”

She did highlight how the state was asking for the estimated number of educators, school staff, and daycare providers in Kittson County who were looking to get vaccinations.

Once the county does receive more vaccine, it will continue to deliver vaccinations to its 65 and older population and essential workers, such as firefighters and law enforcement officers, who have come forward expressing their desire to now get the vaccine.

On January 18, Governor Walz announced the launching of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine pilot program, with nine pilot sites across the state. These sites have vaccinated adults 65 years and older, PreK-12 educators, school staff and child care workers. Thief River Falls is the nearest pilot site to Kittson County.

“We had a fair number of teaching staff and over 65 population who did go to Thief River,” Urbaniak said.

She also knew of people who had gone to other places for vaccines, such as the VA in Fargo and vaccine clinics. Urbaniak mentioned how the state had started a “Find Vaccine Locations” website. On this website, people can enter in various information to bring up nearby locations that recently received vaccine (mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/find-vaccine/index.jsp).

“We’re really telling people, ‘We’d love to vaccinate you in Kittson County,’” Urbaniak said. “We’d love to serve the people of our county, but get your vaccine wherever you can get it at this point.”

Moving forward, frontline healthcare workers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, ambulance personnel will always rise to the top of the vaccine list as they inform Kittson Healthcare their intent to get the vaccine. Outside those groups of people, it plans to work through school staff and daycare providers and also wants to begin getting more vaccines into the 65 and older population.

Kittson Healthcare is telling people to call the Kittson County info line at 843-8888 to get the most consistent and up-to-date information on vaccine distribution in the county.

Even though Kittson Healthcare had not received any vaccine during the week of the February 4 interview, Urbaniak said that the Minnesota Department of Health was anticipating getting more vaccines this week. As the vaccines continue to roll out, Urbaniak anticipates the state sending these vaccines to local public health.

She also highlighted how she heard that the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine was going to go before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this month for potential emergency use authorization.

“We may have a third vaccine to be able to use in March,” Urbaniak said.

The news of more anticipated vaccine reaching the county and of this potential third vaccine getting approval comes as COVID cases continue to be present to a degree in the county. The county has not reported any of the new strains of the virus yet, but has had three to five cases per week over the last couple of weeks— what Urbaniak classified as a small spike.

“We’re just keeping an eye on that and watching,” Urbaniak said. “Our county positivity is still below five percent, so that’s a good sign for us.”

To see the complete story, read the February 11 issue of the North Star News in print or online.

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