COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives in Clay County; Immunizations Start for Healthcare Personnel

posted on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 in COVID-19

Hope packaged in the form of vaccine arrived in Clay County on Tuesday.

The initial shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Clay County Public Health and Spencer Hospital offices Tuesday morning, designated specifically for frontline healthcare workers who regularly care or provide services for patients suspected to have or confirmed to be infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus. 

Long-term care facility residents and staff have also been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as members of the “Phase 1-A” priority group and will have the opportunity to be vaccinated through the national partnership with local pharmacies. Those pharmacy partners are expected to receive their vaccine supplies the week of Dec. 28.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for months,” expressed Dr. David Keith, a family medicine practitioner at Avera Medical Group Spencer and medical director for Clay County Public Health. “I’ve cared for countless patients who were ill with COVID-19 and have also witnessed patients die or be seriously disabled from this illness. Getting a significant majority of people immunized over the coming months will help us put an end to this health pandemic in our community and our country.”

Those who become eligible to receive the vaccine per their priority group will be advised as additional quantities arrive. People who fall into the next priority category – those age 75 and older and frontline essential workers – will be next to have the opportunity to be vaccinated; however, the time frame for that priority group has not yet been established.

Health officials estimate that it will take many months until all interested members of the general population can be vaccinated, likely into early summer.  Clay County Public Health anticipates it will provide community immunization clinics to better accommodate the large numbers of people who will need to be vaccinated as the process advances to larger groups of people.  Communication through the traditional media and social media will continue in the weeks and months ahead to keep the community informed.

When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available locally and who is eligible to be vaccinated?

Clay County received its first supply of Moderna vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Initially, the vaccine is only allocated to be used to immunize people identified as part of the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) Phase 1-A plan, which means long-term care facility residents and staff and healthcare personnel are eligible to be vaccinated. Vaccine for long-term care facilities is managed through a national partnership with various pharmacies, which will directly receive shipments of vaccine to immunize residents and staff. Vaccine for healthcare workers is sent to public health offices. Due to limited allocations, priority tiers have been established within the healthcare personnel group with Tier 1 personnel consisting of front-line healthcare workers and providers who work directly with COVID patients or high-risk patients for complications from COVID-19. As more vaccine becomes available locally, more personnel in the CDC’s Phase 1-A groups will be vaccinated. The vaccine is not mandatory, yet must be offered to all those within a priority group before it’s made available to the next priority tier.

 How will I know when I can be vaccinated and what is the process?

 People in the initial priority groups will be notified to schedule an immunization appointment via email. Public health will be in touch with the local healthcare offices and organizations to provide instructions when the vaccine is available for each tier. The email will include a screening and consent form and vaccine fact sheet.  You’ll be asked to complete and bring those forms to your immunization appointment.  The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both require two doses. Depending on the type of vaccine you receive, you will be scheduled to return for your second dose within 21-28 days – 21 days for those vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for those who receive the Moderna vaccine. As vaccine becomes available for additional priority groups, information will be shared through local media, social media, and with employers.

I want to get vaccinated but do not live in a long-term care facility or work in healthcare. When will the vaccine become available to me?

After long-term care residents and healthcare workers have the opportunity to be vaccination vaccinated, the CDC has determined the vaccine will then be offered to people age 75 and older and those who have been identified as “frontline essential workers.” The frontline essential workers includes firefighters, law enforcement, postal workers, teachers, daycare staff, public transit workers, postal workers, and those who are part of the country’s food chain, from farmers to transportation workers to grocery store personnel. It’s anticipated the definition of this group will be further defined as the time frame for providing these groups vaccines nears. The time frame for when the vaccine will be available to these populations has not been determined and depends on how quickly a sufficient number of long-term care residents and healthcare workers are vaccinated.

The two vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – approved for emergency use authorization are “mRNA vaccines.” What does that mean?

Here are some facts about mRNA vaccines:

An mRNA vaccine teaches our cells how to make a harmless piece of SARS-CoV2 spike protein. This triggers an immune response inside our bodies which helps protect a person from becoming infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus.
mRNA vaccines do not use a live virus and as such, cannot give someone COVID-19.
These types of vaccines do not affect or interact with a person’s DNA in any way.
An mRNA vaccine is faster to produce than traditional vaccines.  
Both vaccines were tested in tens of thousands of adults from diverse backgrounds.
It is unknown how long protection from COVID-19 the vaccines will provide.

What if my priority group is identified to be vaccinated, yet I choose to wait until a later time to get immunized?

A person in a priority group who decides to wait on getting the vaccine will still be eligible to make an appointment to receive the vaccine at a later date.

What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?

Getting vaccinated will help create immunity in your body against the SARS-CoV2 virus, the specific virus which causes the illness known as COVID-19. By building an immunity to the virus, you’re less likely to become infected and ill with COVID-19. While many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness or may even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. Also, if you get sick, you may spread the disease to others around you, putting them at risk for illness and as potential spreaders of the virus. The higher percentage of people in a community who are immunized will help decrease the rate of infection. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are reported to be more than 94% effective. 

Will the vaccine make me sick?

The role of a vaccine is to trigger an immune response, which means your body’s immune system may react, possibly causing you to experience symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, chills, or a mild fever. An immune response is not unusual and typically last no more than a day. If you have severe allergies and carry an epi-pen to address potential allergic reactions, the current recommendation is to not get vaccinated at this time. 

Can I still get COVID-19 if I’m immunized?

Once a vaccine is given, it triggers an immune response. While a person may experience side effects from the immune response, the response is not a case of COVID-19. However, since it does take the body some time to build immunity after vaccination, precautions need to continue to be taken as someone could become ill if exposed to the virus because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection, especially if only one vaccine has been administered. At this time, experts do not know how long someone who has already had COVID-19 is protected from a reoccurrence. It’s also unknown how long a vaccine offers protection. 

Do I need to be vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19?

It is recommended to get vaccinated even if you have had COVID-19 as at this time it is unknown how long natural immunity will last. People who have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days are encouraged to wait to get the vaccine, enabling non-immune persons to be vaccinated first.  

Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received two doses of the vaccine?

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic, including covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others.