Updated: March 05, 2021 06:15 PM
Created: March 05, 2021 04:31 PM
With the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the Northland now, efforts are underway to get more and more priority groups vaccinated.
Local hospitals are urging those 65 and older who haven't been vaccinated to schedule an appointment soon.
St. Luke's, Essentia Health and St. Louis County Public Health say their goal is to reach 70 percent of vaccinations in the 65 and older age group in order to move into vaccinating the next priority groups in line.
On Friday Lake Superior Community Health Center held a vaccination clinic for 200 patients 65 and older to get the Moderna vaccine.
"It was quick I didn’t even feel it. I sat down and boom and that was it," said Kristin Earlf from Cloquet, who got her first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
"We are working through our 65 years and older population and actually this week we've been able to lower that to our 55 and plus population," said Jessie Peterson, the interim CEO of Lake Superior Community Health Center.
Both Essentia Health and St. Luke’s received their first shipment of the one dose vaccine this week.
"We were able to have 100 doses allocated to us from the state. So we readily accepted those and then we'll have 100 patients here tomorrow to get their dose," said Gina Lemke, the director of pharmacy for St. Luke's. "We are excited, really excited to add another option into the offering."
Essentia Health also received about 2,200 Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday and have already vaccinated people this week and will be vaccinating more next week.
"We really look at these vaccines as being equivalent and just another additional way to hopefully vaccinate individuals and move through this pandemic," said Dr. Peter Henry, the chief medical officer for Essentia Health.
Henry added the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides more opportunity with its' storage capabilities.
"It's more similar to the influenza vaccine in how it can be stored and distributed so that allows us to have more options as to where we give it and how we give it," said Henry.
They are encouraging Minnesota residents 65 or older that live within Essentia's service area to call their hotline to schedule a vaccine appointment. This is being offered for both Essentia patients and non-patients.
St. Louis County Public Health is getting their first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week. They launched a phone line Friday to help seniors register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
"We have about 63% of our individuals 65 plus vaccinated in St. Louis County. We want to make sure that we're really saturating the older population before we move on beyond the older population, beyond healthcare providers and severe risk of illness," said Amy Westbrook, the St. Louis County Public Health Division Director.
But, health leaders remind those vaccinated that this doesn’t mean you can go back to normal quite yet.
"It's going to prevent severe infections and the studies are showing they prevent hospitalizations but it doesn't mean that COVID-19 is just going to be automatically gone and erased. We need to be very mindful and continue with all of the great practices that we've been doing," said Lemke.
"There are a lot of questions of why do I need to wear a mask if I'm vaccinated. The answer to that is it's not 100%. There are still many, many people that are potentially at risk out there," said Henry.
The numbers those 65 and older can call to schedule an appointment are listed below:
Essentia Health: 833-494-0836
St. Luke's: 218-249-4440
St. Louis County Public Health: 218-726-2623
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