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MED CITY ROLLOUT: Mayo, Olmsted health officials talk vaccine progress

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Mayo Clinic's Dr. Abinash Virk

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- While only around 19 percent of Olmsted County's population getting a first COVID-19 vaccine dose, the rollout is actually going better here than many other places.

"We do understand it's confusing for the public right now about who's eligible for shots, where and how to get COVID vaccine right now," said Graham Briggs, Olmsted County Public Health director.

Those eligible or soon to be eligible have many options for registering, even though supply is still low.

"Obviously, the process is going to take a long time. The vaccine supply is fairly limited. We have lots of people who need to be vaccinated," said Dr. Abinash Virk, co-lead of Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 vaccine distribution program.

Both Mayo and Olmsted Medical Clinic (OMC) do not get a lot of warning about how many doses they are getting each week.

"We usually get notified at the last second," said Dr. Randy Hemann, OMC chief medical officer.

OMC is partnering with Mayo along with Olmsted County Public Health, the City of Rochester and Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) this weekend for an invite only vaccine clinic.

"It will be a big piece of our vaccination efforts which will get us close to closing out the 1A group," Brigg said.

Group 1B waits next in line. Mayo narrows that group down further to people 80 years and up eligible for vaccines this week, then includes people 75 and older next week.

"There are a lot of people out there who have a really good argument for why they should get vaccine next," Briggs said.

Mayo has the capacity of vaccinating up to 50,000 people a week, but received less than 4,000 doses this week.

"If we had a lot of vaccine, we would open it up to everyone over 65," Virk said.

Even with limited vaccine, Olmsted County ranks third in the state for percentage of the population having received their first dose.

"I think part of that is because we have a high proportion of healthcare professionals in this community," Briggs said. "That has allowed us to get a larger piece of the pie."

Some say Mayo used a larger piece of the vaccine pie to vaccinate its own workers, some who did not fall into a priority group.

"It's possible some people were mischaracterized and got an invitation," Virk said. "It was not intentional."

A small portion of the state's vaccines allotted to Olmsted County will be earmarked for the childcare providers and the homeless population.

Since there are still questions to be answered on if you can spread virus after being vaccinated, health experts recommend social distancing and wearing a mask even after receiving both doses.

Alex Tejada

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