Moderna vaccine starts rolling out in Clay County

Covid-19 vaccinations have begun in Clay County, rolling out to the highest priority populations as quickly as the Moderna vaccine arrives.

That doesn’t mean the first doses are being injected at warp speed. According to Clay County Public Health director Kathy McKay, the first shipment of just 400 doses arrived on the day before Christmas. It was divided among the four counties in the regional community health board, including Clay and Becker, Wilkin and Otter Tail – providing about 100 doses for each of their public health agencies.

Another shipment of a few hundred arrived last week. After training the first of her six-member vaccination teams, they rolled out Tuesday to give shots to the highest priority group in Phase 1-A: EMS techs not affiliated with Sanford or Essentia, which received their own allotments last month; those who administer free covid-19 in Moorhead’s full-time testing center and elsewhere around the county; and the vaccinators themselves, the public health nurses and other medical volunteers who will be administering the shots for months to come.

McKay notes that these individuals are at the top of the Phase 1-A priority list to get vaccine. Others slightly lower on that list are those who work in dental offices, pharmacies, and the county’s two urgent care and dialysis centers not affiliated with a larger health system. Also included are residents of emergency shelters, group homes, correctional facilities, and free-standing assisted living facilities.

The staff and residents of the county’s long-term care centers are working separately with Walgreen’s and CVS under the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program. Their pharmacists are arranging schedules now. Eventide on Eighth, McKay notes, did receive its allocation from the Minnesota Department of Health previously based on its having qualified staff to carry out the program.

All who receive their first shot will need to get a second in 28 days for Moderna or 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine, which has been channeled to hospitals with the super-cold storage it requires. The Moderna vials arriving at Public Health need only be stored are normal freezer and refrigerator temperatures. The agency is taking extreme measures to protect it from the kind of spoilage and tampering reported in the news from a Wisconsin facility: “We keep it in a locked freezer behind three separate locked doors,” nursing director Jamie Hennen explains. “No one is getting in here.”

While Public Health is fielding calls from residents anxious to line up for their shots, who comes next in Phase 1-B has not been determined yet. According to McKay, the agency has received only general guidelines so far from the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health. “I do know that it will take weeks to complete the population we’re focusing on right now,” she says. “Completing 1-A by the end of the month would be an extremely aggressive goal.” While no date has been set for moving on or completing the massive vaccination program – entirely dependent on when supplies of vaccine arrive here – she cautions that it will take “months and months and months.”

Eager callers need to know this: There is no waiting list. “We’ve heard of phone callers and e-mails that offer to get you onto a list if you pay them,” she notes. “There is no such thing. Every one of them is a scam trying to take advantage of people’s concerns.

“In the meantime, we all need to continue to take the steps we know so well,” McKay stresses. “Wear a mask. Keep your distance from others. Stay away from groups. And be sure to keep on washing those hands!”

– Nancy Edmonds Hanson

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