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Olmsted public health can’t expand vaccination effort without additional supply

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The new vaccine guidance Thursday about expanding vaccination allocation to broader groups of people, including Minnesotans who are 65 years of age and older seems like good news. But, this expansion is only available if there are extra doses available in your region.

"Today's announcement is designed to remove barriers to health care providers and other vaccination partners who have available doses who those doses as quickly as possible," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a media briefing Thursday.

In Olmsted County -- that's not an option.

"Here in Olmsted County, we have a large number of health care workers," Olmsted County Public Health Disease Prevention and Control Nurse Manager Leah Espinta-Brandt said Friday. "And it doesn't match the volume of vaccine we are getting."

Espinta-Brandt says the process is in place and staff are ready to administer vaccines, but without the supply, it won't happen.

"It is frustrating," she said. "At this point we don't have a whole lot of say in the volume we are getting."

While she says state health has been very communicative, there are still questions with this new distribution expansion. Espinta-Brandt says her team is waiting for further guidance from the state.

"We can only share what we know," Espinta-Brandt said.

On top of that, a promised COVID-19 vaccine reserve from the federal government, doesn't exist. Something, Gov. Tim Walz and other state leaders had been relying on.

"I have been frustrated, at times beyond belief," Walz said in a briefing Friday afternoon. "But, this one is so far beyond the pale, it's unimaginable."

The new federal vaccine allocation guidance opens up vaccine availability to 2.1 million Minnesotans. Yet, the demand far exceeds the supply.

"I have 2.1 million of you in line and they gave us 60,000," Walz said.

It leaves states across the country -- like Minnesota -- to make due.

"We will continue to do what we've had to do," Walz said. "Clean up the mess that the federal government has left us with."

"Be patient," Espinta-Brandt said. "Know we are prepared and one that vaccine comes, we will be vaccinating."

According to the state health department's vaccine data page, about 10 percent of Olmsted County residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine. It's the second highest percentage in the state. Mehnomen County has the highest rate at about 13 percent.

Beret Leone

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