Dr. Deb Peterson vaccine

Dr. Deb Peterson, chief medical officer at Meeker Memorial Hospital, was among the staff who received a vaccination in late December from the hospital’s first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Nearly 18 percent of Meeker County residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination as of Monday morning.

It’s a good start, according to Meeker County Public Health Director Diane Winter, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Among the best strategies for those still awaiting a vaccination are patience and vigilance.

“I guess what I look at is what is happening around the state,” Winter said in regard to the pace of vaccinations in Meeker County. “Are we in line with what other counties are doing? And looking at other counties around us, it appears we are on par.”

When it comes to giving vaccinations, the county public health department as well as medical facilities such as Meeker Memorial Hospital and Clinics, are at the mercy of the vaccine supply chain.

“It is really out of our hands,” Winter explained. “We give the vaccine when we get it.”

As of Monday morning, Minnesota Department of Health reported that 1.046 million people statewide — 18.8% — had received at least one vaccine dose, with about 570,000 having received two doses. In Meeker County, 4,116 people, or 17.8%, had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The majority of the people statewide who have received at least one dose — 548,380 people – are in the 65-plus age group. In Meeker County 58.8 percent of residents 65-plus had received at least one dose.

Meeker County Public Health followed the state plan and concentrated its vaccination clinics on the “1A” group, which included seniors in long-term care facilities and those in the health care field. They also have vaccinated teachers, child-care providers and others who work in the education system with face-to-face contact with students.

Having completed that group, the department moved to the 65-and-older age group with a clinic at the end of last week.

“We know they are very anxious to get the vaccine,” Winter said of the 65-plus group.

Public Health received 100 vaccine doses for the clinic at the end of last week, and requests “filled up very quickly,” Winter said.

That’s likely to be the case for a while – and that’s where the patience and vigilance comes in. Winter suggested that people make use of the state’s “Vaccine Connector” system at mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/connector/.

For those who register for the online system, after it collections personal information including contact information, the system sends information about vaccine eligibility and where one can receive a vaccination as it becomes available.

“That’s a really good option to stay informed,” Winter said.

Meeker County Public Health finds out on Fridays if it will receive vaccinations the following week. The department won’t post local clinic dates until it knows the vaccine is in hand, she said.

As far as the clinics themselves, Winter said, “they have gone well.”

Public Health is accustomed to organizing vaccine clinics, she said, and staff is “enthusiastic” about doing the COVID-19 vaccination clinics when the opportunity arises.

As people wait their turn in front of the needle, Winter urged them to continue with typical precautions of masking, hand washing and social distancing.