By Anna Jauhola
As the omicron variant of the coronavirus begins to spread around the world, including uncomfortably close to home in Ontario, Canada, local health officials say panic is unnecessary.
Kittson County Public Health Director Jeanna Kujava and Kittson Healthcare Clinic Director of Nursing Andrea Swenson both said on Monday, Nov. 29, that people just need to remain vigilant, follow the same precautions and get vaccinated.
“I feel like it’s just reminding us that boosters are going to be important,” Kujava said of the new variant. “We have to trust those travel restrictions that are in the best interests of our country and just be mindful it’s still around. It’s a living virus, and living things adapt to survive.”
Neither are surprised there’s a new variant. Kujava noted it will take some time for health officials to determine the variant’s severity and there’s no need for major concern at this point.
In the meantime, booster shot events for the COVID-19 Moderna vaccinations and also booster appointments at the clinics have been going steady. The Moderna events were both filled for November and the upcoming event in December is nearly filled, Swenson said.
“We’re still vaccinating people every day at the clinics,” she added. “We are now offering to the pediatric group, ages 5 to 11. And like everything else, we’re having to schedule those vaccinations in groups.”
Kittson Healthcare clinic in Hallock and Karlstad are still both offering Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccinations. And, patients are trickling in to start their initial series of vaccinations, Swenson said.
And they have plenty of the vaccines.
“We have had no trouble in getting what we need,” Swenson said. “We have enough on hand and it is available – for the full series and for boosters.”
For those scheduling booster shots, anyone 18 and older who finished their vaccine series at least six months ago can get their booster shots.
“It seems people are starting to understand it’s a vaccine, it works the same way other vaccines do. Some of them require boosters, some of them don’t, protection wanes over time,” Swenson said of people coming in for initial vaccinations. “I think it’s good to see we’re going through as much vaccine as we are. Because it means our community is using it.”
Along with vaccinations, testing for COVID continues to be a daily task at Kittson Healthcare clinics. Swenson said they do not have the materials for rapid tests at this point, so all tests are sent to Sanford in Fargo, and results are available in one to three days.
“So we’re still able to test, but there might be a delay in getting results,” she said.
Swenson said the clinic will be waiting to see whether they have an influx of illness after the holiday season as well.
So far, however, it’s been status quo, Swenson said.
“It’s a little more complicated now because there’s so much other viral illness circulating in the community,” she said. “But it’s the same message – stay home if you’re sick, get tested if you’re sick and get vaccinated.”
By Anna Jauhola