Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine continues throughout North Dakota and Minnesota, with public health organizations working to keep the public informed while managing the dosages they receive.
Kayla Carlson, public health director for Richland County, North Dakota, said her office is following guidelines issued by the North Dakota Department of Health. The state determines how much vaccine is allocated to each public health entity.
“We’re finding out on a week by week basis how much we’ll receive for the following week,” Carlson said. “Anything is subject to change.”
As of Jan. 14, 2021, more than 710 doses of the vaccine had been administered in Richland County. Of 53,525 doses distributed in North Dakota, nearly 39,480 had been administered. The state and local progress of vaccine distribution contrasted with reports of underperformance in nationwide vaccination.
“The state is only receiving 10,000 doses a week. We have to understand that it can be a slower process. We are using every amount of vaccine we receive — we haven’t let anything go to waste,” Carlson said.
In January, Backers Hospital Review reported that based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, North Dakota had one of the best COVID-19 vaccination rates nationwide.
“The state had administered 73.76 percent of the vaccines it had received as of Jan. 12,” the Review reported.
By comparison, the United States had administered 33.68 percent of total vaccines distributed at that time. The state of Arkansas had administered 14.90 percent of the vaccine it received.
On Jan. 12, the U.S. government expanded the parameters for vaccine distribution. Everyone age 65 or older became eligible, as well as people under age 65 with one or more additional conditions.
“Vaccine doses will now be released based on each state’s pace of administration and size of its population ages 65 and older,” the Review reported. “The number of vaccines distributed to each state is dependent on population size, so large states have a potentially more complicated task.”
Also in January, U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., led a bipartisan letter to the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calling for increased vaccine funding for smaller states.
“If HHS and CDC do not act to provide additional resources to support smaller states that were shortchanged by this round of grant funding, our communities will not be equipped to meet the challenge of vaccine administration during this deadly pandemic,” the senators wrote.
A COVID-19 relief package signed into law in December 2020 directed HHS to distribute $4.5 billion in grants to support state, local, territorial and tribal-based COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Cramer’s office stated. Additionally, HHS was directed to distribute $22.4 billion in grants for support of COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and more.
“Healthcare providers were trained regarding the COVID-19 vaccines before they were authorized for use in the United States, which allowed for vaccines to be administered immediately,” the North Dakota Department of Health stated.
Breakout box: Local response to the COVID-19 vaccination availability has been positive, according to Kayla Carlson. People are excited and relieved that distribution is taking place at any speed.
“They’re looking forward to progressing to a new normal. At the same time, we know we shouldn’t get complacent. We also know there’s a lot of COVID-19 fatigue. Still, we must be diligent and take necessary precautions while remembering patience. The health department can only move as fast as we can,” Carlson said.
Everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, according to the CDC. These include allowing at least 6 feet of space between people, wearing a cloth face covering when maintaining physical distance is impossible, washing your hands often with soap and water and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.