Attendance at influenza vaccine clinics hosted by Kanabec County Community Health has been dwindling —even the county nurses themselves go elsewhere for the vaccine, for the same reasons as the clients: insurance coverage and easy access. 

Kathy Burski, Kanabec County Community Health director, said low attendance has been the norm. 

In 2006, Burski recalled administering nearly 1,000 vaccines. Last year they vaccinated about 325. So far this year, they’ve vaccinated just under 200. 

Burski attributed the downward trend to vaccinations being more readily available to people at pharmacies. 

Vaccines are often available earlier in the year at local pharmacies than at Community Health. 

“We do not like to give them before late October or Early November so that people are protected through the flu season. If given too early, the protection wanes and may not provide coverage for the whole season,” Burski said in an email interview. 

Furthermore, many insurance companies — including the one covering Kanabec County employees — don’t approve payment for the vaccination unless it is given by a provider on their approved list. Oftentimes Kanabec County Community Health isn’t on the list. 

Kanabec County employees are covered by a special Public Employee Insurance Program (PEIP) that was created by special legislation. The benefits include a package of medical, dental and life insurance. PEIP is only available to employees of Minnesota units of government. 

Kanabec County Community Health is still an approved provider for Medical Assistance and Medicare. 

This trend means Community Health has been ordering less and less vaccine, and Burski doesn’t mind. 

“We just didn’t plan on having such difficulty being compensated for the vaccinations given to the groups we usually provided to. Next year we will order less vaccine and do fewer clinics and that is OK,” she said. 

“Public Health is meant to be a safety net and ensure our residents have access. Access to vaccinations has definitely gotten better and this is a good thing ... As people gain more access, we are cutting back on what we provide. We just hope that people continue to be vaccinated even though it may not be as convenient.”

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