COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to the general public in North Dakota beginning on March 29.
Molly Howell is immunization director at the North Dakota Department of Health. Howell says North Dakotans aged 16 and 17 will only be offered Pfizer vaccine, but any adult 18 and over will be eligible to receive any vaccine. She says the change in vaccine eligibility is not because residents in earlier priority groups have all been vaccinated.
"Most North Dakotans are essential workers, or have an underlying health condition - and we're hearing a lot of confusion over who is or isn't an essential worker. Also, people are not self-identifying as having underlying health conditions. Lastly, we want college and university students who want access to the vaccine to have access before they go home this summer."
Howell says on April 1, the state health department’s vaccine finder will roll over to the CDC’s system at www.vaccinefinder.org. Residents can log on to look for vaccines in their area.
Disease Control Director Kirby Kruger says current available vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are effective at protecting against variants of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa, Brazil and the United Kingdom. But he says vaccinating as many people as possible also helps prevent the virus from mutating even more.
"In order for mutations to occur, that virus has to be replicating. When people are infected, we're just the incubators for that virus - every time that virus replicates, that's when mutations are going to occur."
Vaccines are being offered through local public health units, health care providers and several pharmacies.