FARGO — Fargo Cass Public Health said on Wednesday, Jan. 13, that it expects to start vaccinating older individuals and those with underlying health conditions, known as the Phase 1B priority groups, starting the week of Jan. 18.

The agency said it is nearing completion of vaccine distribution for what are known as Phase 1A priority groups, which include health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents.

Health care providers who are distributing COVID-19 vaccines will soon reach out to their patients with information about when individuals can schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.

FCPH said it encourages residents to watch for communication from their health care providers and to visit provider websites for the most up-to-date information regarding vaccine distribution.

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Residents who do not have a health care provider or whose provider does not cover the COVID-19 vaccine may utilize the COVID-19 Vaccine Phase 1B Resident Contact Form to share their information with FCPH.

Using the contact form will allow for future communication of vaccination opportunities to residents in Phase 1B priority groups as those opportunities become available.

FCPH is an enrolled provider for the COVID-19 vaccine and follows North Dakota Department of Health recommendations and guidance related to distribution of the vaccine.

"While we look forward to providing this important vaccine to some of our most high-risk residents in the coming weeks, we also ask for continued patience of the community as it will take some time before we are able to move to the next priority groups," said Suzanne Schaefer, FCPH director of nursing.

"We are working to provide safe and controlled vaccination clinics for Cass County residents as their priority group comes to the top of the list. Multiple vaccine opportunities will become available as the weeks progress," Schaefer added.

According to guidance provided to FCPH by the North Dakota Department of Health, Phase 1B priority groups include the following (in order of priority):

  • Persons age 75 and older
  • Persons age 65 – 74 with two or more high-risk medical conditions

  • Staff and persons living in other congregate settings (i.e., corrections, group homes, treatment centers, homeless shelters, etc.)

  • Persons age 65 and older with one or more high-risk medical conditions

  • Persons age 65 and older with or without high-risk medical conditions

  • Persons with two or more high-risk medical conditions regardless of age
  • Child care workers
  • Workers employed by preschools or Kindergarten through 12th grade: teachers, nutritional services, aides, bus drivers, principals, administrative staff, custodians, etc.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, high-risk medical conditions include:

Asked Wednesday about the reasons the CDC lists smoking as a high-risk medical condition, Cass County officials Wednesday referred questions to the federal agency.

Essentia Health and Sanford Health recently announced they will start vaccinating members of the general public soon and said patients should watch for notifications from their health care providers regarding when vaccines will be available to them.

Liz Bjur, public health nurse with Clay County Public Health, said Wednesday the agency is still working to vaccinate Phase 1A priority groups, which include EMS workers and other first responders.

"We did vaccinate 500 (people) last week," Bjur said, adding: "We are ready to vaccinate and we have the capacity to vaccinate, but we are waiting for more supply from the state."

Bjur said skilled nursing facilities in Clay County have been vaccinated through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, which she said is set to start vaccinating assisted living facilities in the county this week.

She said it's not known when Clay County will begin vaccinating Phase 1B priority groups, adding the county has yet to receive guidance from the state of Minnesota regarding the groups to be included.