Freya Nelson – Staff Writer
As Minnesota begins the first portion of a state-wide vaccine rollout plan, members of the Gustavus community work tirelessly to establish a vaccination plan for the Gustavus community. Jessica Braun, Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Vaccine Coordinator, is working alongside the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Nicollet County Public Health in order to ensure the utmost level of safety at Gustavus.
“Vaccination priorities are set by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Gustavus is working closely with MDH to identify individuals on campus who meet those parameters. The challenge that exists is that there is not enough vaccine supply to meet the current demand. As production of vaccines ramps up and/or more vaccine options become available, more individuals will be able to be vaccinated,” Jessica Braun said.
According to Braun, it is not yet clear when exactly there will be a large quantity of vaccines available to the Gustavus community, but she hopes it is soon.
“It is possible that we could get a large quantity of vaccines and proceed in distributing to the campus similar to our flu clinics, though with current supply chain issues this may not be an option for some time. Another potential scenario is that the College could get smaller allotments of vaccine and we would work with MDH and NCPH to determine how that will be distributed,” Braun said.
In terms of who will be vaccinated under the Minnesota Department of Health’s next criteria, Braun shares that that criteria is changing daily and it is highly difficult to speculate.
“There is now a focus by MDH to vaccinate early childhood grade k-12 (school staff) and 65+ age groups. [MDH’s next phase], phase 1b is slated to begin after those groups are complete. Who is included in the 1b tier is still a work in progress,” Braun said.
Braun speculates that following the completion of MDH’s current phase, the Gustavus community could have a potential to start receiving vaccinations.
“I think our vaccine allocation will be dependent first on how fast the 65+ group can get done, which will depend on continued doses coming to the state. Once this group is completed, the State will then determine next steps and they sometimes surprise us by switching up priority groups (for instance, E-12 school staff were not initially slated to get a vaccine this early but due to a big push to get kids back in school they moved up),” Braun said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, as updated on February 4, Minnesota is within “Phase 1a” of the state-wide vaccination plan. Phase 1a of MN’s vaccination process is a three-tiered prioritization system that details who is qualified to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and when. Within this preliminary phase, only health care personnel, residents of long-term care facilities, general hospital and long-term care employees, and any adults living in an
Intermediate Care Facility. Although the aforementioned people listed are prioritized within the primary three tiers of MN’s Phase 1a plan, MN legislators are currently using census data and an equation called the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to determine who else in the community may qualify for a vaccine, such as those over the age of 65. The Minnesota Department of Health states that the following phase, “Phase 1b,” will be released within the next few weeks.
Braun assures that even after being vaccinated, every member of the Gustavus Community will need to continue to do their part to continue to prevent the spread. These safety measures will include: social distancing, wearing masks (that fit over the mouth and nose), wash hands, and stay home when sick just like those who are not vaccinated.
“As time goes on, we will learn more about COVID-19 illness and the vaccines including duration of protection after illness/vaccination, potential for reinfection, and so much more. COVID fatigue is real, but it is so important that we remain consistent in following mitigation measures until more is known,” Braun said.