A year after the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the Northland, where we stand

A year after the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the Northland, where we stand
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 7:22 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - DULUTH, MN -- Almost exactly one year after the first round of vaccines arrived in the Northland, health experts say things have come a long way, but there’s still work to be done.

Since the first doses of the vaccine were distributed on December 17th, 2020, nearly 293,000 people across the region have started their vaccine series.

That’s around 64% of the population.

Kelly Chandler with Itasca County Public Health remembers the optimism that filled the air when the vaccination finally became available.

“That first day there was so much hope and so much positivity and so much joy in our office. It’s a day I will not forget,” she said.

Grace Grinager with Cook County Public Health says they’ve had huge success with the vaccine in their county.

Cook County has a state leading 83.4% vaccination rate.

Grinager attributes their success to a strong initial turnout and big pushes from both the county and tribal health departments.

She said the community has done a great job helping the cause.

“We have a very limited number of vaccinators so we’ve all really had to work together and try to coordinate things for the community so to the extent that we can support one another, we’ve really tried to support one another,” said Grinager.

They’ve had 325 cases of COVID throughout the pandemic and one death.

She said after the initial wave of vaccines were given out, they were able to focus on educating their population on vaccine safety.

“In the beginning there’s just this large volume of people wanting vaccinations so we have to really work through that, and then as that slows down we’re able to put more time and energy toward outreach and education, doing events,” said Grinager.

Chandler said despite the successful rollout, there’s still a lot to be done.

Itasca County currently has a 57.1% vaccination rate.

“Making it so if there are some folks getting sick, it doesn’t necessarily overwhelm our hospitals and clinics and our healthcare staff, that would be incredibly important and an important milestone for us,” said Chandler.

You can find the latest vaccination information on the Minnesota Department of Health’s Website.

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