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Health care workers at small clinics and private practices get left behind in COVID vaccine rollout

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN (WCCO) — While the next phase of vaccine rollout is already underway for people 65 and older, some health care workers are still waiting for their turn. Many of them work at smaller community clinics, private practices or dentists’ offices.

“Mostly what I’ve heard from patients is, ‘What do you mean you’re not vaccinated?’” said Jennifer Demma, the medical director at Family Tree Clinic in St. Paul.

Family Tree is a reproductive and sexual health clinic, offering limited primary and gender-affirming care. As an outpatient clinic, they’re the third round of group 1-A to receive the COVID vaccine. Yet so far, no vaccine has been administered to them, and no answers from the Minnesota Department of Health as to why they’re still waiting.

“We haven’t been told anything directly,” said Demma. “Communication is the most frustrating.”

MDH addressed this problem Thursday without giving any specific timeline on when clinics will see vaccines.

“We’re trying to quantify the problem,” said Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “We acknowledge we are not done with all the providers in that 1-A group.”

MDH encouraged those health care workers to reach out to their personal providers to get vaccinated, saying they provided doses to larger health systems for this reason.

It’s something Demma has already started telling her 30-person staff to do, as well as continue to wear PPE and keep serving their patients as safely as possible. However, Demma is frustrated that all of her staffers have direct patient contact, and were not prioritized ahead of hospital workers who do not.

“If an entire health system is vaccinating all its employees, including those who don’t have direct patient contact, that’s when it gets frustrating for us because we are more at risk than people who have no patient contact,” said Demma.

Family Tree clinic has become a safe space for underserved Minnesotans to receive healthcare. Of their patients, 25% are uninsured, 60% identify as LGBTQ, and 50% are people of color.

“The trust erodes, when you see yet again, what causes our health disparities in who is getting vaccinated first,” said Demma.

Eventually, when Family Tree staff is vaccinated, they hope to be providers of the vaccine as well. Demma has already applied for her clinic to be a COVID-19 vaccine provider.

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Article Topic Follows: Regional News

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