MOORHEAD — Clay County ranks at the bottom of Minnesota counties in the percentage of residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine to protect against coronavirus infection.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 1.5% of Clay County residents have been vaccinated, or 936 of 62,801 residents, as of Tuesday, Jan. 12. That is the lowest percentage of any county, a level shared with nearby Traverse County, which includes Wheaton.
Kathy McCay, Clay County Public Health administrator, said she isn’t concerned with the numbers. Unlike many counties, Clay County doesn’t have a hospital, where most vaccines so far have been administered.
“We don’t have a hospital in Clay County, so that’s No. 1,” she said.
Also, McKay said, the hundreds of Clay County residents who work for Sanford Health or Essentia Health in Fargo and have been vaccinated at work are counted in Cass County’s numbers, thus understating the true count for Clay County.
“Those are the two biggest reasons why our numbers are a bit low,” she said. In the first phase of vaccination against COVID-19, front-line health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents and staff are the top priority groups.
Apart from major health systems, such as Sanford and Essentia, major drugstore chains are giving vaccinations to residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers, leaving smaller quantities for local public health agencies to administer.
“We’re getting small amounts each week,” and those doses are promptly given, McKay said. “We know this vaccine is coming and we know we’re going to distribute it as soon as we receive it.”
Elsewhere in Minnesota, Mahnomen County had the highest percentage of residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine; 12.9%, or 713 of 5,506 residents have been vaccinated, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Across the Red River in Cass County, where 11,837 doses have been administered, 5.1% of residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and 1.8% two doses, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
Statewide in North Dakota, 4.6% of residents have received one vaccine dose and 0.8% have been given two doses.
North Dakota is one of the leading states in vaccine coverage to date, with 5,181 first doses per 100,000 residents vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In South Dakota, the rate is 5,505 and in Minnesota 2,877.
“We have seen the flow coming very beautifully,” said Suzanne Schaefer, director of nursing for Fargo Cass Public Health. “We are making really good progress.”
North Dakota will be receiving almost 10,000 doses of vaccine per week, public health officials have been informed, she said.
Very soon, the next phase of vaccine will be given to the first members of the public outside congregate living centers, starting with those 75 or older, Schaefer and McKay said.
“So we are moving along pretty well,” Schaefer said.
Public health officials in both counties have been fielding lots of inquiries from the public about when people can expect to be vaccinated. Officials will keep moving down the priority ladder, as more vaccine doses become available.
“We appreciate their patience as we continue to go through this,” Schaefer said. “There is a lot of demand.”