In the past year, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease led to a global pandemic that changed our lives. Our public health and health care staff worked diligently to launch COVID-19 testing sites, disease surveillance systems, case investigation and contact tracing teams, small and large vaccine clinics, communications and outreach, and an information hotline while continuing to provide the regular care and services needed in new and creative ways.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) is closely monitoring variants of concern (VOC). These variants have mutations that alter the characteristics and cause the virus to act differently in ways that are significant to public health (e.g., causes more severe disease, spreads more easily between humans, requires different treatments, changes the effectiveness of current vaccines).
All vaccine providers in Olmsted County will pause use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine starting immediately, following guidance from the FDA/CDC. Use of the J&J vaccine will be put on hold until we receive further recommendations from state and federal partners about how best to move forward. Safety is the highest priority when it comes to all COVID-19 vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine discarded at Baltimore facility
Last week, we learned that about 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were ruined at a manufacturing facility in Baltimore, Maryland. This does not affect any doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine currently being used or doses being allocated. The problem was quickly identified, and the doses were discarded – this is exactly what should happen during quality checks. There’s no reason to avoid getting a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Governor Tim Walz announced that all Minnesotans 16 years of age and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination beginning Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The final eligibility expansion comes as the federal government has promised an increased supply of vaccine by April. By expanding eligibility to all Minnesotans, providers across the state will have the flexibility they need to fill appointments and support the state’s most critical goal – to get as many Minnesotans vaccinated as quickly as possible.
The State of Minnesota and the CDC are relaxing some of the restrictions put in place nearly a year ago, but this doesn’t mean we can or should abandon the health and safety practices and behaviors we’ve all been doing that has helped us reduce COVID-19 transmissions, morbidity, and mortality.
Our comeback story can’t be written without you. Olmsted County Public Health, Mayo Clinic, and Olmsted Medical Center have teamed up to provide up to date and important information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Our best hope to come back together as family, friends, and a community is the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on March 8, 2021 for fully vaccinated people. The new guidance relaxes some of the precautions that have been in place for nearly a year.
We know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick and evidence now shows that people who have been fully vaccinated can return to doing some of the things that they stopped doing last year because of the pandemic.
With the recent news of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use, vaccine supply in Olmsted County and the state is expected to increase.
All three of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use are safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, related hospitalizations, and death. When it’s your turn, it’s recommended that you get any of the three vaccines.
Take the first opportunity to get vaccinated that is offered to you
Navigating when you or a loved one is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can be challenging. Several locations in Olmsted County are offering the vaccine in alignment with state guidelines as vaccine supply becomes available. Minnesota is currently vaccinating remaining health care professionals, persons 65 and over, E-12 educators and support staff, and daycare workers. You may have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at multiple locations.
Last week, the State of Minnesota expanded the E-12 definition to include all staff, not just student-facing staff. This change adds roughly another 1,800 people in Olmsted County who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. Olmsted County Public Health Services is working with school districts and child care providers directly to get E-12 staff vaccinated when vaccine becomes available.
State of Minnesota’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program (CVP)
The State of Minnesota will be opening a new community vaccination site this week in Rochester for a one-day vaccination clinic. The large-scale, semi-permanent site will be the third of its kind, joining vaccination sites in Minneapolis and Duluth that launched last week. The Rochester site will be able to serve approximately 1,500 people. This week’s vaccination clinic will be for people 65 years of age and older.
Local COVID-19 vaccination clinics continue to be scheduled for designated Olmsted County businesses, organizations, and employees following CDC guidelines for prioritization of those most at risk of exposure or complications from COVID-19.
Olmsted County Public Health Services (OCPHS) is collaborating with Olmsted Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, several additional Olmsted County Departments, City of Rochester, Rochester Police Department, Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office, and Rochester Community and Technical College to vaccinate up to 2,200 individuals in the last priority group, Phase 1A-3. Clinics will be held on Friday and Saturday, February 5 and 6, 2021. This is the first mass vaccination COVID-19 clinic offered by OCPHS.
The week of January 25, 2021, Olmsted County Public Health, Mayo Clinic, and Olmsted Medical Center (OMC) began vaccinating populations in Phase 1a priority 3 groups, including all remaining community health care personnel who cannot work remotely. This includes, but is not limited to, individuals such as dental office staff, hospice staff, optometrists, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, morticians, orthopedics and rehabilitation staff, laboratory services staff, and funeral directors.
Olmsted County Public Health continues to prepare for vaccinations to expand into community healthcare organizations and critical infrastructure workers. We encourage businesses, organizations, and agencies in Olmsted County to complete the business vaccination planning form. This form will help identify all the businesses in the county and determine where the business falls within the phases and priorities.
Olmsted County Public Health continues to see high numbers of COVID-19 positive residents in our community. Olmsted County Public Health is recommending that individuals who gathered with others outside their immediate households over the holiday weekend limit their time around others and if possible, stay home and isolated for 14 days after the last day spent with non-household contacts. People should monitor their health for any symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested if symptoms do develop.
The last day of COVID-19 testing at Graham Park will be Nov. 14. The Community Testing Collaborative, formerly known as the Graham Park Collaborative COVID-19 Testing Site, will begin transitioning to two new indoor locations on Thursday, Nov. 12, to provide staff and patients a warmer, safer place to be tested during winter.