From the County Manager Column from Feb 23, 2021

Update on employee vaccinations

Before moving into this week’s topic on vaccinations, I first want to acknowledge the questions coming our way about the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Next week’s column will be focused on this topic and the planning that has been happening across our organization, with our community, and with our regional partners in preparation for an extremely challenging, traumatic and fraught time. This will require us to do all we can to create spaces for healing and peace. Through it all we are committed to caring for one another, holding firm to our values, and ensuring the well-being and safety of every single employee and every single resident. - Ryan

As more employees are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations as a function of their jobs, we're understandably hearing more questions about that process and when more of our employees will be eligible for vaccinations through us as an employer. I hope this update provides some clarity around those questions and resources to keep you informed.

First, it's important to remember that the overall COVID-19 vaccine supply remains restricted and is not yet available for the general public. Health officials at the federal and state level have set out a phased plan to provide vaccine doses to those at highest risk of getting infected - both due to their professions (such as health care professionals) or other risk factors.

Read about vaccine phases from the Minnesota Department of Health

The shots themselves are being given by many different organizations. These include state health professionals, health care providers, community clinics, public health departments and related organizations. As shown on our COVID-19 daily situation update dashboard, in Ramsey County, more than 65,000 people have received at least one dose of vaccine to date. Our Public Health department and partners have provided about 8,600 of those doses at nearly 60 clinics offered over the past seven weeks. Most of these have been for those in group 1a - among our employees and volunteers these include Public Health and community vaccinators, Correctional Health nurses, Public Health nurses and those providing clinical services, Sheriff's Office sworn staff (with emergency medical credentials), Ramsey County Care Center and Lake Owasso staff, health care associated with the Medical Examiner’s Office, shelter system staff, detox center staff, correctional officers, 911 dispatchers and some probation officers.    

Eventually there will be enough vaccine for everyone. For most of our employees - like most of the population generally - you will probably be scheduling your doses through your primary health care provider or a pharmacy later this year. Large-scale open public clinics, community clinics and other options will also become more widely available. For alerts or notifications for your eligibility or availability of vaccine, check with your health plan. If you are a HealthPartners member, you can obtain additional information on the HealthPartners COVID Vaccine FAQs and sign up for alerts. You can also sign up for the state of Minnesota’s new Vaccine Connector portal for alerts about vaccine eligibility and availability in your community. Sign up for those alerts at COVID-19 Vaccine Connector.

The Occupational and Health Safety team from Human Resources has been working with Public Health and department leaders to identify employees in higher-risk occupations to facilitate internal vaccine distribution. These frontline essential workers will be notified by supervisors when vaccine will be available to them. Employees generally identified in this group are:

  1. Those individuals who interact in-person with members of the public or higher risk populations and are unable to always take precautions to socially distance because of their job or transport clients because of their jobs. 
  2. Those individuals visiting clients in their homes or outside of the office setting because of their job.
  3. Those individuals who are interacting with members of the public in face-to-face settings and are unable to maintain social distancing or do not have barriers like plexiglass between them.
  4. Those individuals who are working indoors or where necessary sharing vehicles with other employees in close proximity.
  5. Individuals who are working outdoors, but who may interact with members of the public face-to-face.

Employees who cannot work from home but can maintain proper social distancing protocols and masking will be prioritized after the above individuals.

As I shared in my first column this year, It’s important to remember that the vaccine is highly encouraged, but not required – either by the state of Minnesota or Ramsey County.

We have added a FAQ with more detail that we will update as we move through vaccination phases and get more detail.

Read the full FAQ

Here are some additional resources you may find useful:

Please know that we are doing the best we can to be fair and equitable with a very limited supply of vaccine. Your health and safety is the top priority, so please continue to follow all of the health guidance that we've all focused on over the past many months. I appreciate your patience and understanding throughout this process and I thank our Public Health staff and community volunteers for their efforts to promptly and effectively schedule and administer the doses we receive from the state.