Cavalier County Health District expects to receive their first 100 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week of December 20, 2020. The first priority group (Phase 1A) to receive the vaccine will be healthcare workers, first responders, and long term care residents and staff. The next phases will mostly likely include Phase 1B: other essential workers (such as police, fire, teachers) and Phase 1C: people 65 and older and people at high risk. Phases 2, 3, and 4 will follow. The priority of who gets the vaccine and when they get it is set federally by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) under the CDC and, in ND, by an ethics committee at the state level.
Administering the vaccinations to Phase 1A recipients will likely occur over the span of less than one month, pending no delays in shipping or approvals. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses separated by 28 days and is shown to be 94.1 percent effective.
“These are safe and effective vaccines,” assures Public Health Nurse Steph Welsh. “No shortcuts on evaluating safety or efficacy were undertaken in the approval process for these vaccines. They were approved by two independent advisory committees.” Those advisory committees are the ACIP and the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRPAC) under the FDA.
“The vaccine trials were large, in fact, larger than some studies of vaccines that have undergone full FDA approval,” said Welsh. “Study participants were followed for 2 months following vaccine receipt as this is when the majority (90%) of vaccine side effects occur.”
With any vaccine that creates a strong immune response, which is needed for protection, people receiving the vaccine can experience side effects related to the building of that immune response. The side effects for these vaccines include a sore arm, local reaction at the injection site, headache, body aches, fever and chills (which occurred less than 10 percent of the time during trials) for a couple of days following vaccination. These are all considered mild side effects.
Natural COVID-19 infection has known complications in the both short and long term, some of which are severe, up to and including death. It is important to weigh the known risks of the disease against the risks of vaccination.
“We have a long history of vaccine preventable diseases which we no longer see thanks to vaccination,” said Welsh. “For example, we live in a world, in a country where we do not need to fear our children being paralyzed by polio. We can thank vaccines for that. My hope is that someday we will look back on COVID the same way we do measles or polio.”
Langdon Drug, Maple Manor Care Center, Cavalier County Memorial Hospital, and Cavalier County Health District are all enrolled providers for the COVID-19 vaccine. Each one of them enrolled to provide vaccines for different groups of people. They coordinated and worked together to determine who would vaccinate each of the different groups, with clear expectations of who was responsible for each group.
Langdon Pharmacy is not distributing during the Phase 1A rollout but will receive doses for future phases. “I strongly recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccination and plan to get it myself,” said Pharmacist Lyle Lutman. Public Health will be vaccinating the pharmacists as they are part of Phase 1A.
Maple Manor Care Center enrolled to cover only the doses needed for the healthcare workers and residents of their facility. Director Connie Hakanson expects to receive the Moderna vaccine within the week. “We should be giving vaccinations by December 28th,” she said. They will receive the second dose to administer to the staff and residents 28 days later."
Cavalier County Memorial Hospital and Clinic also enrolled to cover only the doses needed for the hospital and clinic staff. Public Health will store and administer these doses. “I recommend getting the vaccine,” said Chief Nursing Officer Jamie Nienhuis. “It is highly effective and seems safe, even though you can get mild side effects in the first 24-48 hours,” she said.
The Cavalier County Public Health District will also be vaccinating the staff and residents of Osnabrock Community Living Center and their own staff at Public Health. They are making sure all priority groups will be vaccinated who are not covered by another agency in this phase and all phases going forward.
After Phase 1A, Public Health and Langdon Pharmacy will be the distributors of the vaccine to the public. It will be important for the public to watch for announcements about clinics for COVID-19 vaccination and who should attend as the process moves forward.
Other things to know:
• Masks, distance, hand washing, and avoiding indoor crowds need to be continued until most of the population gets vaccinated.
• It is intended that there will not be a cost to any person who gets the vaccine. If there are administrative fees, insurance is required to cover them. No one will be turned away if uninsured.
• You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The current vaccines are not live vaccines and will not cause a positive result in a COVID-19 test.
• As with all vaccines, a screening form will be completed with each recipient to check for any medical reasons to wait or not receive the vaccine.
• Though vaccination is not mandatory, it is the ticket to destroying COVID-19 and its hold on our lives.
“I will not hesitate to receive this vaccine myself or for my family, not only to protect myself but those around me,” shares Welsh. “We need to come together as a community to minimize and hopefully eradicate COVID. The strongest tool in our tool chest to do this will be vaccination.”