(Alexandria, MN) As vaccination doses are getting distributed to more and more health facilitators and pharmacies throughout the state, the effectiveness of the effort is boding well for seniors in West Central Minnesota. Both Alomere Health and Sanford Health announced Wednesday that they have extra vaccines available this week, while supplies last. Thursday, Trumm Drug's downtown Alexandria location announced the same news. Those reports are in addition to other pharmacies that are also reporting some additional availabilities.
Dr. Deb Dittberner, Chief Medical Officer for Alomere Health in Alexandria, says that as of Thursday morning 66.8% of it's population age 65 and older in Douglas County has received at least one of the two vaccine shots. The statewide average as of March 4th is 55.1% for that same age bracket. Governor Walz and State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm have said the benchmark to open up vaccinations to the next age bracket is when at least 70% of those age 65 or older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot. The state forecast for that milestone is April 1st. Dittberner predicts it will be between March 15th-17th.
Dr. Dittberner is also the medical director for the West Central region and adds that 22% of Douglas County's TOTAL population has received at least one of the vaccinations. Neighboring counties have similar numbers, with Pope County 22.7%, Grant County 22.9% and Traverse County has 27% of its population with at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot. Stevens County, with its heavy college-age population due to the University of Minnesota-Morris trails at 17.8% of the population received at least one shot.
Another concern with getting the vaccine to patients is its shelf life. Dr. Dittberner says the Pfizer vaccine is only good for a couple of hours once it has been taken out of the refrigerator. (She says there one storage location in West Central Minnesota for the vaccine that would require a trip and a car ride to get it back in the refrigerator, "so once we take it out we're gonna use it.") She says Moderna has a longer shelf life, about a month in the refrigerator. The new vaccine can last a long time and only requires one shot, versus two with Pfizer and Moderna. Dittberner says they are sharing their vaccine next week with two additional locations; Douglas Health (that serves Douglas Machines) and Cub Foods Pharmacy.
The full conversation about the state of vaccinations in West Central Minnesota including Dr. Dittberner and Alomere Health Director of Community Relations, Eddie Reif during their March 4th KXRA Openline visit is below: