BEMIDJI -- Coronavirus vaccinations have been steadily administered in Beltrami County recently, with many residents receiving their first and second shots, as well as their boosters.
One of the latest vaccination events took place at the Bemidji VA Clinic on Monday, where about 250 veterans were able to receive their COVID booster shots.
The VA Clinic's booster initiative was just a few days after another vaccine event took place at the Peoples Church on Friday, Nov. 19. That clinic, according to Beltrami County Public Health Director Megan Heuer, was a success, with many getting newly vaccinated.
"We saw more kids get vaccinated and many people were getting their first dose," Heuer said. "We're very excited to see so many new people getting vaccinated."
While those who recently received their first shots won't be fully immunized by the Thanksgiving holiday, as it takes about 14 days, Heuer said they do help start the process.
As of Monday, 25,830 Beltrami County residents have received one dose while 23,639 are fully vaccinated. Statewide, 3.59 million Minnesotans have had one dose and 3.38 million are fully vaccinated.
"Even one dose of the vaccine is going to give you more protection and it gets a little stronger every day than it was before," Heuer said. "You will have some protection, but not be fully vaccinated, so there is a higher risk. So, it's still important if recently vaccinated to get tested."
Testing is now available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Bemidji Armory, 1430 23rd St. NW. The testing site is operated by the Minnesota Department of Health and Heuer said it's also worth going for those who are unvaccinated and going to events for the holiday.
"We're not asking people to not see their family, we know that's just as important for mental health," Heuer said. "But we ask people to be mindful. Stay home if you're sick, and if you get tested today or tomorrow, you'll likely have your tests soon and you can spend time with your loved ones."
Heuer is also asking those who are unvaccinated to remember hand washing and wear masks if they're around elders or those who live with increased health risks. The requests are being made to help hospital beds remain open locally, with 24 currently hospitalized in the county for COVID as of Monday.
"Each day is a balance between discharges and patients needing to be admitted," said Heuer. "Hospital beds are scarce across the state. Patients are often waiting for hours before a bed becomes available and they may have to be transferred to another hospital depending upon where the bed capacity is located."
At the vaccination event for veterans on Monday Amy Blakeway, Bemidji VA Clinic manager, also noted the importance of those who have been vaccinated to get their boosters to help prevent transmission during the holidays.
Heuer agreed, and said, "with all vaccines, natural immunity can wane over time. So getting boosted is important, because it does exactly what it says it will do. It makes the immunity stronger again."
While COVID-19 remains an issue with a lot of attention, Heuer also said it's important for residents to also be prepared for the flu season.
"With our hospital capacity the way it is, we want to take any opportunity to protect ourselves from anything out there, and the flu vaccine is one of the ways to do that," Heuer said. "Time will tell how this vaccine works because last year there were less cases because more people were being cautious with COVID, and the vaccine is based on last year's strain. However, it's still one more layer of protection."