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Covid vaccinations start reaching older Carlton County residents

People encouraged to register for shots now, then wait for appointment call


February 5, 2021

Jana Peterson

John Luomala got a sticker when he checked in and a sticker when he got his shot at Essentia Healthcare in Duluth.

Thomson Township resident John Luomala was exceedingly happy to get his Covid-19 vaccination shot from Essentia Healthcare in Duluth last week.

From the first recorded call - when he waited 45 minutes, but just left the phone on speaker - to get an appointment to his arrival at the Essentia auditorium to check in, then getting his actual shot, Luomala said it was smooth sailing.

There were only about six people in front of him waiting for shots, and the line moved quickly.

"A young nurse checked my ID and asked which arm, left or right, and I didn't even feel it," he said, sharing that people shouldn't be afraid to be vaccinated. "I was in and out of the parking lot in 20 minutes, bang, bang, bang. There was nothing to it."

According to data updated by the state on Wednesday, Feb. 3, a total of 4,747 people in Carlton County have received at least one vaccine dose -- out of nearly 36,000 residents.

Since mid-December, Essentia Health has administered about 10,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines at St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth.

Community Memorial Hospital had administered almost 1,600 vaccinations by the end of last week, CEO Rick Breuer said.

"Following state directions, we began with healthcare workers and partnered with Carlton County to identify additional individuals from the state's designated 1a category," he said, referring to healthcare and emergency services workers and long-term care residents identified in the state initial plans.

On Thursday, Feb. 4, residents of Sunnyside Healthcare at CMH were scheduled to get their first dose of the vaccine, and Friday the hospital was starting to vaccinate members of the public - with one of the first appointments scheduled for a 105-year-old woman.

In addition, the state has included schools and daycare centers as part of the current eligible vaccination groups. Breuer said those individuals and some others, such as nursing home residents, are largely being vaccinated through separate distribution channels at this time (including Walgreens and CVS pharmacies).

But it's slow going. Supplies of the vaccines are limited, and Breuer said they are finding out weekly how many vaccinations they will be receiving.

On Tuesday, state public health officials said it could take up to four months to vaccinate Minnestotans ages 65 and older at the current rate of vaccine shipments.

Meanwhile everyone needs to continue to follow guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including wearing masks in all public spaces and observing social distancing.

Breuer said they are pleased at the overwhelming response they're already seeing to the rollout of the vaccine.

"We anticipate the state continuing to open more channels of distribution for the vaccine as supplies increase in the weeks and months ahead," he said. "We stand ready to serve our communities and assist in this massive undertaking."

Currently, according to the Carlton County Covid Hub, there are currently no public Covid-19 vaccine clinics scheduled, rather the public health and human services department is working with employers within the identified phased groups on vaccine distribution.

"We have focused doses on the phased populations with first and second doses," said county public health nurse Meghann Levitt. "We have been able to get our first doses out within 72 hours of receiving the vaccine. We have also been able to get all second doses out according to the 28-day timeline for the Moderna vaccines."

Health and Human Services director Dave Lee said that a ramp-up of vaccinations for Covid-19 will happen - when enough vaccines are available - at the two county transportation sites: the Transportation Building at the Carlton junction and the new county garage in Barnum.

Carlton County will continue to update its hotline at 218-499-6312 and COVID-19 Hub ( with vaccine distribution information. Residents are encouraged to continue checking those for updates from public health.

Get in line for a vaccine virtually

-Community Memorial Hospital has a vaccination registration form on its website at or residents may call 218-879-1271. The form allows people to register their interest but not to schedule an appointment. The hospital will notify people who have registered when they can schedule a visit. The vaccinations are actually being given in the Oak and Pine rooms on the ground floor of the hospital.

St. Luke's COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic in Duluth is open and vaccinating primary care patients who are 75 years and older. St. Luke's has 400 appointment slots per day and patients are contacted based off a randomized list to ensure the vaccine is distributed fairly, according to a press release.

The online schedule is built out for a rolling four weeks. Each weekday at 8 am, St. Luke's will add one day onto the end of that four-week schedule. That means every morning there will be a new batch of appointments available for people to schedule through the portal. St. Luke's will provide daily updates on of how many appointments will be added.

Contributed photo

Margaret Colberg, a Sunnyside Healthcare residents, gets a shot on Thursday.

For now, any St. Luke's patient 65+ with a myCare patient portal account may schedule an appointment online. To schedule an appointment or to sign up for the portal, visit This option will soon be available to non-St. Luke's patients 65+.

St. Luke's is also calling primary care patients 65+, prioritizing those who are considered highest risk.

-Essentia patients are encouraged to sign up for MyChart. Visit and click on the "MyChart" button in the upper right-hand corner; then click "sign up." There is also a MyChart app for smart devices. Additionally, Essentia Health will be sending a voice message to patients' preferred phone number in their medical record. Besides using MyChart, individuals will be able to call to schedule appointments, once they are available.

Beginning Friday, Feb. 5, Essentia will be administering vaccines - by appointment only - inside the former Dress Barn space, across from Maurices.


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