This isn't her first pandemic rodeo


February 12, 2021

Jana Peterson

She may be 105 years old, but Martha Westlund isn't taking any chances. She got her Covid-19 vaccination on Friday at Community Memorial Hospital, and plans to attend more of the centenarian birthday parties at the DECC in Duluth once the pandemic is over.

Martha Westlund, age 105, was three years old when the last pandemic hit the world. But she doesn't remember much about the 1918 influenza pandemic, because no one got sick on their isolated farm in the Twig area.

She is very much aware of Covid-19, however, and was thrilled to get her first vaccination at Community Memorial Hospital on Friday.

Her son, Tim Westlund, said he'd been calling around and searching websites in the area to get her an appointment, and finally called the Raiter Clinic, which referred him to CMH.

"Once I told them Mom was 105, before I knew it, they were calling," he said. "It worked out real good."

For her part, Martha was pragmatic. "It will be good to get it," she said, while filling out paperwork prior to the appointment.

Even though she still lives at home by herself with dog Tibby and cat Pepper for company, Martha has had some exposure risks from people who come to help with her care, said Tim, who lives nearby. Those people have not been able to get vaccinated yet.

"Both girls that come in twice a week have been exposed, even her nurse that comes over hasn't been able to get a shot," he said.

Friday was the first day the Cloquet hospital offered Covid shots to people aged 65 and older. They vaccinated close to 150 people that day - among them Cloquet residents Dave and Rosa Johnson - with more to come.

"We were so lucky to get in," said Rosa. "The staff were so wonderful, from the minute you got in the door, go past the piano player and downstairs, everybody was so fantastic."

CMH CEO Rick Breuer said while treatment methods for Covid-19 have improved over the past year, vaccination is key to beating the pandemic.

"We know the only way to truly move our society forward is through vaccination," Breuer said. "We are excited at the arrival of several vaccines found to be highly effective against the coronavirus, and we are hopeful more will soon be coming."

According to a press release from the Minnesota Department of Health Wednesday, more than 220,000 Minnesotans age 65 and older pre-registered for the Covid-19 vaccine. Minnesotans who have not been selected from the registry will remain on this list and continue to have the opportunity to be selected to schedule an appointment at the state's Covid-19 vaccination sites, including the DECC in Duluth.

The state is sending doses of Covid-19 vaccine to more than 100 hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers to administer vaccines to Minnesota seniors. A new Federal Retail Pharmacy Program also starts this week where the vaccine will be available to Minnesotans 65 and older at certain Walmart and Thrifty White locations.

Minnesotans age 65 and older can use the online vaccine locator map at to find locations near them and contact those health care providers with questions. Vaccine supply is still limited, so appointments may not always be available.

CMH and the county are still working through the list of health care and senior living employees, along with school and daycare employees and now people over 65.

"We anticipate additional state direction in the weeks ahead allowing various vaccination partners to begin vaccinating those aged 18-64 with certain underlying health conditions and certain workers at what the state defines as "essential businesses," Breuer said.

According to data updated by the state on Wednesday, Feb. 10, a total of 6,039 people in Carlton County have received at least one vaccine dose - an increase of 1,292 over the past week - out of nearly 36,000 residents. According to the same report, 1,792 Carlton County residents had completed the vaccine series of two shots as of Feb. 8.

For ongoing vaccine updates, call the Carlton County hotline at 218-499-6312 or visit its Covid-19 Hub online. Residents are encouraged to continue checking for updates from public health.

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Jana Peterson

Martha Westlund gets a shot from Shelly Demers, RN and Director of Staff Education and Infection Prevention at CMH.

Community Memorial Hospital has a vaccination registration form on its website or 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 vaccination for the second dose will be scheduled to take place after the proper number of days have passed.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is holding community vaccination clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Ojibwe School gym for eligible patients age 18 and older with health risks. People must be registered and have a confirmed appointment.

All patients must be registered with FDL human services. They must also meet one of the following qualifications: Fond du Lac enrollee; first- or second-generation descendent of the FDL enrollee; enrolled member of a U.S. federally recognized tribe and reside within the FDL service area; non-Indian household member residing within the FDL service area. Call 218-878-3791 or 218-878-3732 to schedule an appointment.


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