COVD-19 vaccination access for those 65 and older to increase

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

On Monday, Governor Walz announced a plan to increase vaccinations for senior citizens. He said more than 35,000 Minnesotans age 65 and over would have access to COVID-19 vaccines at over 100 clinics, hospitals, state community vaccination sites, and other locations across the state this week. He cited an increased vaccine supply and a successful two-week pilot to test the concept of community vaccination clinics as the impetus in “moving forward with an all-of-the-above approach to vaccine distribution that bolsters the proven network of local health care providers that will administer vaccines to most Minnesotans in the coming months, while also cementing the path forward for community vaccination sites.”

What does this mean for people in the Sleepy Eye area? We asked Karen Moritz, Brown County Public Health Director and Mikayla Bruggeman, Community Relations Coordinator at Sleepy Eye Medical Center.

“We continue to be very happy that so many people are interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Moritz, “but the supply of available vaccine is not nearly enough to meet the current requests.”

Moritz said health care clinics in Brown County and Brown County Public Health have completed 95% of the 1a priority group—which includes healthcare workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities.

“Brown County is moving to the next phase of vaccinating the E-12 school staff, childcare providers, and those over age 65,” said Moritz. “Brown County Public Health will lead for the E-12 school staff and childcare providers, and healthcare clinics will be assisting with the vaccination of individuals 65 and older at this time.”

Bruggeman said SEMC received a small supply of vaccines for patients 65 years of age and older. She explained they are using a random system to select (and call) eligible patients to schedule appointments. 

Vaccinations are becoming more available for those age 65 and older.

“We ask that those who are 65-plus please wait for us to contact them,” said Bruggeman. “We will notify patients when they are eligible for the vaccine so that they can schedule an appointment.”

Moritz also stressed that those 65 and over should wait for their clinic to contact them. “Clinics have received an extremely small supply of vaccine and are using a random system to select eligible patients,” she said. As Bruggeman said of SEMC, Moritz said, “Your clinic will notify you when you are eligible for the vaccine so that you can schedule your appointment.”

Moritz acknowledged that some people may be on more than one list, depending on where they have received medical care. She said, “People need to take the first offer they get if they are able to. If you cannot drive that far then wait until there are more local options.”

She also said the vaccine situation changes day to day — it is very fluid, so people should leave their name on any list they are on. “Again – take the first opportunity that comes your way on any list,” Moritz said.

On Tuesday SEMC launched a new COVID-19 Resource Hub: semedicalcenter.org/covid19resourcehub/. Bruggeman said it’s a one stop shop for all things COVID-19 — testing, vaccine information, safe care, visitor guidelines, etc. The COVID-19 Resource Hub will be updated regularly.

Moritz, of Brown County Public Health, had one more message for the public:

While vaccine is an important step in the pandemic, it is also still important to practice the protective recommendations which include:

•six foot social distancing

•staying home when sick

•wearing a mask when inside in public and outside if you cannot social distance

•wear a mask over your nose AND mouth

•If your healthcare provider has told you not to wear a mask due to health problems, please consider wearing a face shield

•Diligent hand hygiene and cleaning of high touch surfaces

•Avoid socially gathering with people outside of your immediate household; and if you do wear a mask indoors and outdoors

“It is extremely important that everyone take the protective recommendations seriously, to reduce COVID-19 transmission,” said Moritz. “It will take time before vaccine is offered and available to the general public, so the protective recommendations are still very important to follow.”