Sanford, Essentia prepare for COVID vaccine

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 5:09 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group said health-care workers and nursing home residents should be the first to get coronavirus vaccines.

“We’re really anticipating cases to go back up,” said Brenton Nesemeier, Field Epidemiologist for the North Dakota Department of Health.

As we wait for an expected Thanksgiving covid case surge, health officials in the Red River Valley are prepping for the longly awaited COVID-19 vaccine.

“The first ones to get it would be the nursing staff that’s going to be injecting others,” said Dr. James Volk, Sanford health Vice President of Clinic.

Dr. James Volk with Sanford said next is frontline caregivers like physicians and nursing staff working on the COVID unit and ICU. Then comes the elderly in long-term care facilities.

“We’re in discussion right now as to where residents of long term care facilities fall,” said Volk. “The vaccine really appears very safe at this point in time, so I don’t anticipate any issues in immunizing even elderly with multiple comorbidities.”

Dr. Richard Vetter with Essentia said they’re following similar steps, with the addition of essential workers like firefighters and police officers.

“Realizing like with everything else covid, that there will probably be changes along the way,” said Dr. Richard Vetter, Essentia’s Chief Medical Officer.

Both are expecting the first shipment from Moderna and Pfizer coming to Fargo sometime this month.

Pfizer’s vaccine has to be stored in a temperature colder than a North Dakota winter. That’s minus 80 degrees Celcius. Modernas is minus 20.

“Once you take it out of the deep storage, or deep temperatures, you can actually refrigerate it for up to five days,” said Vetter. “We have processes in place to make sure we can utilize all that product.”

Both hospitals said they have enough storage for the vaccine, but with the demand being high for freezers, other organizations may have a hard time finding them.

And although it appears like hope is on the horizon, health experts say we’re not out of the woods yet.

“We’re not trying to be the bad guys, we’re just trying to ensure that those future holidays can be as joyous as can be with any many loved ones as you want,” said Nesemeier.

Essentia said getting vaccines for the general public may not be available until spring.

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