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‘It’s a rhythm’: rural counties in Minnesota vaccinating population at higher rates than metro areas

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DULUTH, MN-- Minnesotans 65 and older who live in rural areas are more than twice as likely to get vaccinated than those who live in metro areas.

That's according to a recent report by Minnesota Public Radio.

It was believed vaccine distribution would be difficult in rural Minnesota, but that's not the case in Cook County.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Cook County has already vaccinated 40% of its overall population.

A good chunk of those are adults over 65.

"If we have a third of our population in the priority group as being over 65, the math means who gets vaccinated moves that dial a little more percentage-wise more quickly," said Grace Grinager, the Public Health Supervisor for Cook County.

Grinager said partnerships have played a key role in getting vaccines out quickly.

"The vaccine that we have been distributing has largely come through the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. After they got into the rhythm of ordering the vaccine, we knew when to expect it. We got into a rhythm of just opening up registration and reach out accordingly," said Grinager.

Finding a rhythm for vaccinations is one of the reasons why Carlton County is seeing success as well.

"We have been able to provide quite a few vaccines just because of our flow in being able to get shots in arms within 72 hours," said Dave Lee, Director of Public Health and Human Services in Carlton County.

Carlton County has 22% of its population vaccinated, according to MDH. That percentage is even higher among older adults.

"We are above 50% with our 65 and older population," said Lee.

Lee also said close partnerships with local hospitals have given them the platform to vaccinate quickly.

"We know we have the capacity with our partners, so we are just keeping the gates open. Whatever the supply gives us we don't want to be a bottleneck on our end," Lee said.

But, despite the success, there is one challenge that seems to be looming for all counties when it comes to vaccination.

"It's rolling down to supply and being able to keep it at a high sustainable rate of vaccination," said Lee.

Both Grinager and Lee also mentioned the local tribes in their counties have done a great job distributing the vaccines.

For more information on state vaccination data, you can go here.

John Cardinale

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