Wilkin Co. Public Health to discontinue COVID vaccinations at year end

A total of 3,026 eligible Wilkin County, Minn., residents have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, Nov. 17. The 65 and older age group has the highest vaccination rate in the county (88 percent fully vaccinated).

Wilkin County, Minnesota, Public Health Director Becky Tripp provided an update on the COVID-19 situation to the county board at a Tuesday, Nov. 16 meeting. Wilkin County currently has 51 active cases, three of them new as of Friday, Nov. 19, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

A total of 3,026 eligible residents have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, Nov. 17. The 65 and older age group has the highest vaccination rate in the county (88 percent fully vaccinated).

“Our numbers are really good for 65 and older, OK for 50-64, not so great for the rest of the population,” Tripp said.

Wilkin County Public Health will not vaccinate the 5-11 age group. There are providers in the area who can do so in a more controlled and comfortable environment, Tripp said. As of Wednesday’s report, nine individuals aged 5-11 had been vaccinated in the county.

Public Health also plans to discontinue COVID-19 vaccinations at the beginning of next year. They expect to have most of the booster doses administered by then to those who want one, Tripp said. Individuals wishing to get vaccinated after the first of the year can do so at their primary care provider.

Tripp said 2.2 percent of fully vaccinated individuals are breakthrough cases and getting COVID-19, and just 0.098 percent are being hospitalized in the state, according to a call with MDH.

“It isn’t that people who are vaccinated are not getting COVID, but it’s just that they’re not ending up in the hospital with it,” Tripp said.

She said some COVID-19 patients are being sent as far as Tennessee to get an ICU bed. The data of the number of hospital beds occupied by a COVID-19 patient can get skewed because once it has been two weeks since someone’s diagnosis, they are not considered COVID-19 hospitalizations. However, the complications from the illness are keeping patients bedbound longer than two weeks, Tripp said.

“Hospitals are full across the state and North Dakota,” Tripp said.

CHI St. Francis occasionally keeps COVID-19 patients at the hospital, but they try to send them to other facilities.

“There’s just no beds to send people to right now,” Tripp said.

It’s a combination of a lack of beds and staffing shortages, she said. Prior to the pandemic, hospitals only maintained a certain number of ICU beds as for-profit facilities. When COVID-19 hit, hospitals reached their limit, then increased their number of ICU beds. But, it takes a lot of staff to operate the ICU, so the problem is double sided.

Statewide, there have been 44,224 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 as of Friday, MDH reported. Of those, 8,846 have been admitted to the ICU. From Monday to Wednesday this week, there were 287 people hospitalized statewide and 32 people admitted to the ICU.

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