Rural Minnesota counties work to vaccinate with fewer resources and staff

As the vaccination rollout continues around the state of Minnesota, health officials in the more rural areas are struggling with fewer resources and staff, making the process more straining and time-consuming.

"Given the circumstances, the vaccine rollout has gone pretty well," said Marlee Morrison, the Hubbard County Community Health Director. "Working with what we have and working with the small amount of vaccine that we have been allocated, we’ve pretty much been able to find a way to put it into arms."

In rural areas, the health departments have small staffs and a small number of available vaccines. In Hubbard County, the population is just over 21,000. The number of public health nurses they have to administer the vaccines is just five, and they all have multiple jobs.

"It’s a small group of nurses who really are jacks of all trades, so that is a challenge," said Morrison. "But I think we have risen to it as far as adapting and, kind of working through the rollout and got direction from the state."

In southwest Minnesota, Southwest Health and Human Services covers six counties for a total of roughly 73,000 people, with 18 public health nurses and 23 temporary nurses.

While a lack of resources has strained the more rural counties, state officials say the lack of supply is also an issue.

"As we are in this constrained supply right now, we have been using some randomization process to get some vaccine out to every region of the state, but that is just all going to continue to get filled out, and more and more providers will have vaccine as that supply ramps up," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.