MARYSVILLE – The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered today to Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH) clinical care staff members. Receiving the first vaccines simultaneously were family physician and medical chief of staff Dr. Shane Thoreson, family physician Dr. John Haefele, family physician Dr. Jacob Nagely, Carrie Schmitz, MLT, medical laboratory technician, and Ali Minge, RN, nursing services. Vaccine coordinators were Paula Winkler, RPh, director of pharmacy, and Emily Dunsing, PharmD. Deb Hedke, RN, Infection Preventionist and employee health nurse also helped coordinate vaccine administration.
“I am incredibly thankful to have received the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Thoreson. “It has brought me a huge sense of relief and hopefulness for the future – that we are one step closer to bringing this pandemic to an end.”
Following the initial five doses given, front line care providers received the vaccine one person at a time. Healthcare workers prioritized for the shot were any staff with direct patient exposure, and who qualified to receive the vaccine. CMH received 11 vials of vaccine in the first shipment this afternoon. Each vial contains 5-6 doses. About 40 staff received the vaccine on Thursday. The remaining doses will be given on Friday. Once received, all doses must be given within 120 hours of arrival.
The vaccine administered to staff Thursday was the Pfizer-brand vaccine. The vaccine will be administered in two parts, with the second shot being given to the same staff approximately 21 days from now. A second round of doses is expected to be distributed in Kansas following the approval of the Moderna-brand vaccine, which was to go to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use approval also on Thursday. The FDA approved the Pfizer-brand vaccine last Thursday, Dec. 10 – it took seven days from national approval for the first doses to be received and administered here in rural northeastern Kansas.
“I was super excited to take part in the very first round of vaccines,” said Schmitz, who resides in Beattie. “I think we will all feel safer, not only for ourselves, but also for our patients and our communities. It’s going to be so much better.” Regarding a response to the vaccine itself, “The shot went great; I had no reaction, it went really well!” she said.
The general outlook of the staff administering and receiving the vaccine today was absolute excitement, and a lot of hope. “We really had a great response from the people who have had it so far,” said Hedke. “It arrived a little bit later in the day than we anticipated, but we were all very excited!”
CMH clinic director Jill Bergmeier, RN, who helped administer the vaccine today said, “More than anything, we hope this slows things down.”
After seeing a large spike in positive cases, symptomatic tests, hospitalizations, and Marshall County’s first COVID-related deaths in November, things have begun to level out locally for the time being. Instead of an average 50-60 symptomatic persons being tested per day, testing is now down to an average of 15-20 individuals per day. Hospitalizations have gone from nine COVID-positive inpatients at a time, to an average of three or four hospitalized locally at one time.
“We have seen improvement in our community by mass adoption of a recovery plan. We should continue to utilize the tools that are working to eliminate the transfer of the virus between us – keeping 6 feet of space between each other, wearing a mask, and protecting ourselves by washing our hands,” said Dr. Thoreson.
“We are very excited to begin receiving the vaccine – protecting our employees is paramount in order to continue to provide care to the community,” said Curtis Hawkinson, CMH chief executive officer. “This is the first phase. More vaccine will be arriving each week, and more and more people will begin to receive the vaccine.”
Along with the first round of vaccines for healthcare workers, at-risk populations like nursing homes are also set to be receiving vaccines in the coming weeks. This is reassuring for a rural population like our communities in Marshall County, said Dr. Thoreson. “To know that our most vulnerable will begin receiving additional protection is a big comfort to those of us who have been providing care to those patients and seeing how much many of them have struggled to overcome the virus,” he said.
“I want people to know how thrilled we are that the vaccine is here for our front line workers,” Hedke said, “and to begin the process of moving toward involving the community so that eventually our lives can get back to resembling the normalcy we all had prior to this pandemic.”