“Everybody has to do their part, and my part is considering other people’s health and just getting vaccinated,” he said. He received his first dose of Moderna at a new vaccine site at Lincoln Community Center, which took both appointments and walk-ins as a strategy to make the vaccine as accessible as possible. Mankato Area Public Schools, or MAPS, partnered with Blue Earth County to organize and run the site Thursday.
The partners had about 300 doses available. After seeing the steady stream of people coming in for vaccines, MAPS Director of Community Education Audra Nissen Boyer said more dates could be in the offing at the community center. Nissen Boyer said the school district and county also focused attention on informing the surrounding neighborhood. If people knew of anyone hesitant or unaware of how/where to get a vaccine, they were encouraged to send them to the community center.
As the state sprints ahead in its quest for herd immunity, reaching out to more underserved populations will be an important hurdle to clear. The organizers reached out to students at Lincoln Community Center, which offers adult education classes for immigrant and refugee populations among other groups, ahead of Thursday’s vaccine clinic. “We knew it was an opportunity to inform and educate student populations within our community that would not have a whole lot of other opportunities to get the vaccine,” she said.
One of the site’s goals was to reach underserved communities. Interpreters were on hand to help non-English speakers through the vaccine process, including signing up for second doses in May. “Lincoln Community Center is seen as a hub for safety, security and growth in our community,” she said. “I knew if we could figure out a way to get that here, people would see that as their opportunity to get the vaccine.”
Mayo Clinic Health System’s southwest Minnesota region, which includes Mankato, was administering about 1,000 to 1,200 first doses per week until about two weeks ago. Since then, said Director of Pharmacy Perry Sweeten, the number dropped to about 400 last week and then 200 this week. South-central Minnesota recently surpassed the 50% mark in eligible residents being vaccinated with first doses. Progress has slowed, however, prompting health professionals to speak out about how to assure hesitant people about the vaccine’s safety.
The stall isn’t primarily caused by people being late for their second doses, although that is happening in about 3.4% of cases statewide compared to about 1% in the health system’s southwestern region. It’s more about fewer people seeking their first doses. Sweeten and Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic vaccine research group, said putting the vaccine’s rare side effects in perspective is one strategy to help address the remaining unvaccinated population’s concerns. “The demand, at least to my lens, just plummeted out of the sky,” he said during a briefing with reporters Thursday.
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