38 percent of county residents 75 and older vaccinated

Health Services Director Kayla Carlson said the state estimates 38.1 percent of Richland County, North Dakota, residents over 75 years old have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

That number includes vaccinations done by the Richland County Health Department, pharmacies, Essentia Health and Sanford Health. Carlson gave her update at a Tuesday, Feb. 2 county commission meeting.

The county is currently in phase 1B and vaccinating the first priority group which are residents 75 and older. Vaccinations for residents 75 and older are expected to take another two to four weeks, Carlson said.

The next priority group in phase 1B is residents 65-74 years old with two or more high-risk medical conditions. Some high-risk medical conditions include chronic kidney disease, heart conditions and COPD. More conditions can be found on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.

The health department has administered a total of 1,173 COVID-19 vaccines as of Feb. 2. The health department administered 463 additional doses of the vaccine since the last county commission meeting, held two weeks prior on Jan. 19.

Carlson said the clinic held Friday, Jan. 29, was successful and that participants were impressed.

“We got a lot of good feedback from the community. I had a few individuals pull me aside and compliment that it was run really well, the staff did a great job, some were even commenting how they were nervous about it and the staff made them at ease,” Carlson said.

The health department is expected to receive 100 first dose allocations on the week of Feb. 7 and 260 first dose allocations the week of Feb. 14.

Carlson said on Wednesday, Feb. 3 the health department was notified of and accepted 100 additional doses on top of the Feb. 7 and Feb. 14 allocations. Allocations are fluid and subject to change.

“So now we’re to a point where even if we’re not getting first doses in, then we’re likely getting second doses for that week,” Carlson said.

The health department is administering the Moderna vaccine which requires two shots 28 days apart. The first shot is 80 percent effective against COVID-19 while the second shot is 95 percent effective.

At the Jan. 19 commission meeting, the health department requested and was approved for an additional $50,000 for hiring new staff, advertising and renting a facility to hold clinics.

A total of $30,000 was to be allocated toward additional staffing for clinics. However, shortly after, the state began offering the assistance of state staff at clinics.

“That’s been really great to hear. The state is funding that, and we don’t have to reimburse them for that cost, and so we did take advantage of that at last Friday’s clinic,” Carlson said.

As long as the state is able to provide staff, the health department will continue to utilize them because it reduces costs and the state covers liability for their staff, she said.

The health department is also working on updating their website to be more user-friendly for older age groups.

The commission raised concerns about vaccinating highway department staff after a recent outbreak of COVID-19. Highway department staff were not included in phase 1A with healthcare workers, first responders and other medical staff. The commissioners had brought forth the issue at previous meetings.

“Those first responders are only as good as the roads are open,” Commissioner Nathan Berseth said. “Is there any flexibility to allow that (vaccinating highway department crews)?”

Carlson said the health department is unable to break from the guidelines without receiving penalties, such as reduced vaccine allocations.

“The state has pretty clear guidelines of how they define first responders or emergency personnel … With their allocations, they’re watching who we give to, so if we go rogue, they’re essentially going to dock us for it,” Carlson said.

Berseth said he and other commissioners would reach out to the state to address the issue and that he understands the tough spot the health department is in.

The state has been receiving increased allocations from approximately 10,000 doses to approximately 11,000, Carlson said.

“We’ve used all of our allocated doses … everything that we’ve been given we’ve been able to give back out,” she said.

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