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Nobles County has highest COVID vaccination rate in area, but hesitancy persists

Vaccine now readily available for Nobles County residents.

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A healthcare worker prepares a Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

WORTHINGTON — At least two local COVID-19 vaccination clinics had to be halted on Tuesday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put a pause on distribution of the single dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine over concerns of people developing blood clots after receiving the dose.

Minnesota West Community & Technical College had planned a vaccination clinic Tuesday and today at its Jackson campus during which 100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were to be administered to students. On Tuesday morning, it was announced the clinic was cancelled.

Statewide, more than 166,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have already been administered, representing about 5% of the doses given, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Meanwhile, more than 1.7 million Minnesotans have received the Pfizer vaccine (50.9%), and nearly 1.5 million have received the Moderna vaccine (44.1%).

As of Friday, Minnesota was fourth in the nation in the number of vaccines distributed to residents, trailing only New Hampshire, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The state says an 80% vaccination threshold is needed for herd immunity.

In the six counties of far southwest Minnesota, Nobles County had the highest vaccination rate as of Saturday, with 53% of residents aged 16 and older having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the MDH.

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The agency reports 8,635 Nobles County residents had received one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as of Saturday, while 6,436 residents had completed the vaccination process by either getting the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. More females (4,339) had received the vaccine compared to males (4,056), though 240 individuals were listed as unknown or missing gender data.

MDH also noted that of Nobles County residents receiving the vaccine, 50 were aged 16 to 17; 3,352 were aged 18 to 49; 2,445 were aged 50 to 64; and 2,788 were aged 65 and older. Nearly 80% of the county’s residents aged 65 and older have been vaccinated, while 60.7% of those aged 50 to 64 have received the vaccine.

With six local entities offering the vaccine, local health officials are concerned they’ve now hit a plateau in reaching those who wish to be vaccinated. Addressing fears about the vaccine, as well as language barriers, is their next step to attain a higher vaccination rate among those eligible.

Statewide, MDH reports 27.7% of Minnesota’s Caucasians completed the vaccination series, compared to 22.8% of American Indians, 15.9% of Asians/Pacific Islanders, 14.1% of Blacks/African Americans, 9.8% of Hispanics and 4.6% of those who identified as multiracial.

Nobles County Community Health Services Administrator and Public Health Supervisor Michelle Ebbers said that data does not accurately depict the success occurring in Nobles County.

“We have had several wonderful collaborative efforts in conducting mass vaccination clinics where many individuals from diverse backgrounds were vaccinated,” Ebbers said. “One such effort was spearheaded by Sanford Health, while another was truly a grassroots effort provided by Los Unidos and the Minnesota Department of Health.”

Ebbers said two large vaccination clinics in Nobles County resulted in more than 2,200 residents being vaccinated.

“Although not all individuals were of diverse background, all were high risk,” she added.

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While local pharmacies, clinics and the hospital continue to work on vaccination efforts, they’re seeing people not just from Nobles County, but from other areas of the state.

“We, along with other neighboring counties, are starting to see a limited amount of individuals who are driving (here) in order to obtain a vaccine,” Ebbers said. “As our region is becoming saturated in terms of individuals who have interest in becoming vaccinated, I think it is very important to look on the positive side that in serving those from outside the region we are assisting in opening up the state of Minnesota, and can look to brighter days ahead.”

Still, Ebbers wants to see those in Nobles County be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“If anyone has the desire to be vaccinated and has yet to do so, I encourage them to come forward at this time,” she said, noting that people may call 295-5100 for assistance or referral to a collaborative partner to register for the vaccine.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory, the CDC recommends people ages 16 and older be vaccinated.

Ebbers believes more education is needed to reduce the hesitancy some have about getting the free vaccine. Following is a Q&A with her about the vaccines.

With different vaccines now available, is one better than the other? “As far as which vaccine is the best, I would only answer with whichever one they have availability to and will be in compliance with. I do not believe one vaccine could be listed as superior.”

Are there more side effects associated with one vaccine over another? “We have had a wide array of reporting, from one person reacting to the initial dose and others not, to the same person not reacting to the second dose and another person reacting. Some individuals don’t react to either dose, and some react to both doses. Some reaction to the vaccine can be seen as the vaccine doing what it needs to within the body. Those with moderate reactions should be in contact with their provider and, if needed in more severe cases, emergency medical personnel can be contacted.”

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I’ve had COVID already. Why should I get the vaccine? “Per the CDC, getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection (immunity). Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon within 90 days after initial infection. However, experts don’t know for sure how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 can far outweigh any benefit of natural immunity. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody (immune system) response without experiencing sickness.”

Will the vaccine help if I have COVID long-haulers? “Some studies have reported the vaccine may assist with at least one-third of individuals who have COVID long-haulers actually having their symptoms ease and, in some cases, fully resolving after they get vaccinated. Although more studies are needed, one theory is the virus remains in the body in small amounts and continues to cause immune system problems. Once someone is vaccinated, the leftover virus is resolved. However, since this is not an absolute, it is extremely important to talk with your provider prior to receiving the vaccination.”

Can the vaccine cause infertility? “At this time, there is no evidence linking the vaccine to infertility. While many providers have spoken out against the theory that COVID-19 vaccination can cause infertility, it is important to have these types of conversations with your personal provider. Oftentimes, providers have discussed the risk of the COVID-19 disease being significantly higher than the vaccination.

“Pregnancy does increase the risk of individuals becoming more severely sick if contracting the disease. Most recently, it was determined that some protective antibodies from pregnant women were passed onto their babies within the womb after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Where do I get vaccinated? “The COVID-19 vaccine is available at several Nobles County locations, including Access Family Medical Clinic/Avera Medical Group, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Sanford Health, Sterling Drug and Walgreens, all in Worthington.”

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUSCOVID-19 VACCINE
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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