O’NEILL, Neb. (Jan. 4, 2021) – The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive at Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital (ASAH) were recently administered to frontline health care workers and emergency responders as directed by the State of Nebraska.
The distribution process for the first 213 doses of the Moderna vaccine began just before Christmas Day. ASAH expects it will be notified of a second shipment of the vaccine soon so vaccination of the first priority groups designated by the state can continue.
“There were a lot of smiles at these clinics,” said Todd Consbruck, CEO of ASAH. “My thanks goes out to Lori Adams-Kunz, director of Pharmacy, and Cindy Jakubowski, clinic manager of Avera Medical Group – and everyone else involved in organizing this effort – for the work they did to make sure these first vaccination clinics went smoothly and efficiently.
“It’s been a challenging year for our staff, patients and the larger community,” he added. “Having the vaccine available to frontline staff and emergency responders is something we have long anticipated – and we look forward to the day when it can be administered to everyone. We recommend that people get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them.”
“A safe and effective vaccine is a vital step toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Avera Medical Group Quality. “The more people who get the vaccine, the closer we can get to ‘back to normal’ and see reduced illness and hospitalizations due to this virus. While masking and social distancing are important, a large number of people getting vaccinated is the only way this virus will get under control. The more people who get the vaccine, the more lives will be saved.”
The FDA has undergone a rigorous process to ensure the vaccines are safe and effective. “Avera and state health experts have monitored the vaccines’ progress and the data from the clinical studies and are confident in its safety and effectiveness,” Basel said.
Data on the vaccines is very promising. They are showing effectiveness levels as high as 95 percent. Side effects are generally mild and temporary, like headache, fatigue, mild fever and pain at the injection site.
The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people age 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine is approved for age 18 and older.
Vaccine allocation to states and locations is being based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state health officials, positivity rates, vaccine storage requirements, and national guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences as well as the Catholic Healthcare Association.
The State of Nebraska is working directly with vaccination sites for distribution.
Frontline workers include those in emergency medicine, intensive care and COVID units who are at the highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Long-term care staff are also in the first wave.
“Our staff were ready to receive the vaccine. I’m very proud of them,” said Consbruck. “We have two COVID units in the hospital that have at times been full. For our frontline health care workers to get the vaccination was a real Christmas gift.”
Due to limited supply of the vaccine, not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away. Healthy adults without risk factors may not receive the vaccine until this spring.
The exact timeline of the COVID vaccine to the general public remains unknown due to questions about supply. A reliable source of information is the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website. The department’s tentative vaccination timeline projects that phase 1C, when the vaccine will be available to those over the age of 65 with high-risk medical conditions, could be March. Phase 2, when the vaccine will be available to the general public, is currently projected for May.
Avera will provide patients with information and the education they need to make an informed decision about vaccination. The vaccine will only be administered to groups of people for whom the vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective.
Patients do not need to contact their clinic to inquire about the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. Current information on vaccine availability can be found at Avera.org/covid-vaccine.
Avera has taken many steps to ensure the ethical, fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine.
“We want to do all we can to end this pandemic by vaccinating as many individuals against COVID-19 as possible,” said Jean Henes, director of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Avera Creighton Hospital.