WORTHINGTON — Worthington was the recipient of a state vaccination clinic Friday and Saturday, with 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson available each day.
The Worthington Event Center hosted the clinic, allowing patients to spread out throughout the process. Translation services were provided in a number of locally spoken languages, including Karen, Oromo and Amharic.
Shawn Schloesser of the State Emergency Operations Center (contracted with the Minnesota Department of Health) explained that 500 appointments were open Friday and 240 people had scheduled times. As a result, he decided to open the clinic to walk-ins to fill the remaining spaces.
"That's this community," he said. "It's what they prefer, so we're accommodating."
Several elements of the clinic are benchmarks of success, Schloesser explained.
"Not wasting any doses," he said, along with "removing as many barriers as possible, making sure community members are aware and have the opportunity and encouraging people in the priority group" are all determiners, he said.
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan made a visit to the site Friday.
"This is the most heartwarming conference room I've been in," she said inside the Event Center.
After touring the facility, Flanagan offered some remarks to the press.
"Whenever we're at vaccination clinics, it's emotional," she said. However, seeing the inclusion of so many cultures and languages, "it's been even more powerful."
Worthington's diversity was one of the reasons the city was selected by the state for a vaccine clinic, Flanagan explained.
"We have a deep commitment to equity in vaccines," she said,
Another deciding factor was the large proportion of food processing workers, who have been especially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flanagan's favorite part of the clinic was learning that by noon Friday — just an hour after the clinic opened — 58 people had been vaccinated by walk-in.
"That speaks to the need for folks in a community to hear from others in the community," she said, noting that word of mouth was an invaluable tool in spreading the word about the clinic.
She thanked the many community organizers who did a lot of legwork ahead of the clinic to help people sign up and bring patients to the site. Partnering on the effort were Unidos MN, Our Lady of Guadalupe Clinic, the Rev. Jim Callahan of St. Mary's Church and others.
At the same time as Flanagan's visit, Gov. Tim Walz made the announcement that beginning Tuesday, Minnesotans age 16 and up will be eligible for the vaccine. Flanagan said she's hopeful that vaccinating families will be a significant factor in reducing the spread of the virus.
As vaccine clinics are hosted across the state, Flanagan and Walz will continue to visit sites to observe Minnesotans working together to protect their communities, Flanagan noted.
"We're delivering doses of hope," she said.