Vaccination rate increases but more are urged to get their shots

Vaccination rate increases but more are urged to get their shots

People who live with sensory issues have an option for the COVID-19 vaccine. The Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN) and the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) are partnering with Hennepin Healthcare to offer a free sensory-friendly COVID-19 vaccine clinic for persons ages 12 and older, 3-7 p.m. Tuesday, July 15. the clinic will be at the AuSM office at 2380 Wycliff St., #102, St. Paul.

Hennepin Healthcare nurses, along with MAAN and AuSM staff, will be available to help families and individuals access the vaccine that will help everyone stay safe. Private vaccine areas will be available as well as other accommodations to make the vaccine experience go as smoothly as possible.

Pfizer (2 doses, ages 12 and older) and Johnson & Johnson (1 dose, ages 18 and older) vaccines will be available. Oromo, Somali, and Spanish interpreters will be available at the clinic.

The autism group-led event comes as changes come to Minnesota’s vaccine landscape. Ten of the state’s 87 counties are at or above the 70 percent adult vaccination mark. According to the most recent data from the state, more than seven out of every 10 people aged 16 and up in the 10 counties have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Six of these 10 counties are in the Twin Cities metro, with the remaining four split between the northeast and southeast.

The counties are Cook, Olmsted, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Dakota, Carver, Houston, Carlton and Scott. Cook leads the state with 82.3 percent of adults vaccinated.

Seven more counties are at or above the 65 percent mark – Big Stone, Fillmore, Lake, Wabasha, Goodhue, Brown and St. Louis.

But in 13 other counties, fewer than half of adults have received their vaccines. Those counties are Jackson, Marshall, Sibley, Meeker, Sherburne, Hubbard, Morrison, Benton, Isanti, Pine, Clearwater, Kanabec and Todd.

The 70 percent vaccination rate is a key benchmark, set by Gov. Tim Walz. Walz had hoped the state would reach that mark by July. that is in line with a goal set by the White House. It is a percentage presented as the minimum needed to reach “herd immunity” and stopping the pandemic for good.

The current Minnesota statewide adult vaccination rate was more than 65 percent as June ended.

The rising vaccination rate and declining demand meant that pop-up testing and vaccine sites around the state have closed. That included a large vaccination site at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, which offered many disability accommodations.

People can still contact pharmacies, doctor’s offices and local public health agencies for vaccines and testing. More than 10 million COVID-19 tests have been performed in Minnesota.

As June ended the state had had more than 7,500 deaths and more than 600,000 known infections.

COVID-19 testing remains free for recipients in Minnesota, regardless of where people are tested.

Gov. Tim Walz has announced he plans to end the pandemic state of emergency August 1. The state has been under peacetime emergency status since March 2020, with the status renewed every 30 days. That gave Walz the power to make decisions during the pandemic.

The governor was able to set up vaccine and testing centers, activate the State Emergency Operations Center and take steps on other measures including unemployment insurance.

Walz said at a news conference that his office will need time to redeploy hundreds of state employees who had been reassigned to other duties during the pandemic. He has extended the state of emergency during a series of legislative special sessions, so state lawmakers will gather one more time in mid-July for that action.