By Erik Kjer, News Editor Originally published in Issue 11, Volume 33 of The University Register on April 9, 2021
Over one year since students were sent home at the beginning of the pandemic, vaccination against COVID-19 became available to the general public. As of Tuesday, March 30, every Minnesotan above the age of 16 is eligible to receive one of the three vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As of writing over three thousand residents of Stevens County and over 1.8 million Minnesotans have received at least one vaccine dose. The vaccination rate in Minnesota has increased dramatically in recent months, more than twice as many doses were distributed in March as were in January, and increases are expected in later months as supplies and methodology improve.
Vaccines are currently available at several sites within Morris and Stevens Community Medical Center has already coordinated several vaccine clinics at various sites around town. On March 31, after weeks of anticipation University Health services and Stevens Community Medical Center were able to obtain approximately 350 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to be distributed to Morris students, and organizers rapidly assembled two vaccination events for students in Oyate Hall on April 6th and April 9th, plus another event for faculty and staff members on April 8. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was chosen because it only required one dose, and with the end of the semester approaching another vaccination clinic at the Morris campus seems unlikely.
Once an individual signs up for an appointment and checks in at a clinic they will receive information about the vaccine, go through a brief series of/procedures, are given a card which confirms they have been vaccinated, and then receive a vaccine. Like with almost all vaccine injections recipients would then wait for a brief observation period before being released. Providing an absence of any lines the entire process can be completed in less than half an hour.
Although the ongoing vaccination campaign is essential to creating a large enough immune population and could lead to the end of the pandemic, continued implementation of practices to prevent the spread of the virus is imperative. The actions of individual community members have allowed case numbers to remain relatively low and students to remain on campus. The CDC now believes the more virulent B.1.1.7 first seen in the United Kingdom is now the dominant COVID-19 strain present in the United States. Studies suggest that this new strain could be 50% more transmissible compared to the new strain could be 50% more transmissible compared to the first identified strain of COVID-19, and the presence of this new strain can increase risks of infection even when some individuals have been vaccinated.
Shots are currently being given at a variety of sites around Morris several times a week. Those who wish to be vaccinated can contact health services who can help arrange appointments with Stevens Community Medical Center, Horizon Public Health, or Thrifty White Pharmacy. If an individual receives a vaccine which requires multiple doses, they should plan to receive the second dose at least 28 days after receiving their initial dose. Those interested in viewing or booking an appointment with Horizon Public Health can do so on their website, and the Minnesota Department of Health has an online tool for finding a vaccine appointment anywhere in the state on their site. Morris Public Transit has provided free transportation for those getting vaccinated in the past, but individuals should inquire if this is still being offered before booking an appointment.
Image on top courtesy of Yale Medicine