Issues surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and planning efforts in Isanti County was a topic of discussion during the County Board meeting Jan. 20.
Isanti County Public Health Nurse Maureen “Mo” Spike was appointed by the board to serve as the administrator of Community Health Services, following the merging of Isanti County Public Health and Human Services. She provided a report on the status of the county’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts.
Although Public Health has successfully administered nearly 200 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to front-line health workers and long-term care residents recently, the efforts haven’t been without obstacles.
“This puts us in a little bit of a tough spot right now, because we are not getting any more doses this week and we are not sure if we’re getting any doses next week,” Spike said. “But we are doing a redistribution with Cambridge Medical Center to get the Pfizer vaccine from them — 125 doses. And we’re planning to administer that next Wednesday at the sheriff’s department as a drive-thru.”
The main challenges Public Health is facing include “limited number of vaccines received” and “quickly changing priority group guidance from (Minnesota Department of Health),” said Spike and Isanti County Public Health planner Cassie Shaker, in a joint email response.
“We ask the public to please be patient as we move through the phases. Isanti County Public Health is administering the vaccines as quickly as we receive them,” they wrote.
Isanti County Administrator Julia Lines said it has been difficult communicating with the individuals in the phases who want information about when they’d be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Because we don’t know when we might have it in our hands,” Lines said. “So there’s been, I think, some frustration among community members and medical providers. ... And we wish we could tell them.”
The county is nearing the end of Phase 1a, which includes health care personnel who work in hospitals, ambulatory and outpatient settings, home health, emergency shelters, dental offices, pharmacies, public health clinics, also long-term care residents and others. The next phase will be Phase 1b, the details of which will be available soon, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
“We partner with the Cambridge Community College, so we’ll be doing the nursing students and the staff there,” Spike said about her efforts moving forward. “And then we’re going to hope to have them actually join us at some of our vaccine clinics, so they get some experience giving the shots. Because it’s very intimidating to go to nursing school and not get the opportunity to administer. And we have some nurses downstairs that we’ve had to do training fast and furious to get them comfortable giving injections.”
Public Health submitted a survey requesting about 500 more COVID-19 vaccine doses in the effort to vaccinate staff, teachers and administrators at the school district as part of the next step, Spike said.
“I don’t know if you guys heard the news or not, but MDH has opened up some pilot projects, so they’re inviting 12 of our Cambridge-Isanti School District members to St. Cloud to get the vaccine,” she said. “So there’s really kind of a misconception right now that there’s a lot of vaccines and it’s available, and we should be doing these priority groups, but we don’t have it in our hands.”