COVID vaccine reaches Richardson County

Story and photo by Nikki McKim 

Frontline workers at Community Medical Center were among the first in Richardson County to get vaccinated against COVID on Tuesday, December 22, 2020. Community Medical Center received the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, December 21, 2020.

CMC had a prepared list of 75 employees ready to receive the vaccine over the course of two days, December 22 and December 23. On Tuesday, they were expected to give the vaccine to 60 employees, five every 20 minutes. A nurse then monitored the five people who were given the vaccine for fifteen minutes for any type of reaction to the shot. Reactions were expected within the first ten minutes after receiving the vaccine. After being monitored, the State of Nebraska has an app where those who receive the shot can report any symptoms they may have; it will also remind them of when to get their second shot. Community Medical Center will also follow up, but daily reporting will be through the app. The second dose of the vaccine will be given 21 days after receiving the first. 

CMC was allotted so many doses of the vaccine for Richardson County. Each week the hospital will ask for a certain amount to be sent in multiples of five. Once the vial is opened, the hospital has so many hours to use all five of the vials. They have a stand-by list in case someone cancels. 

“This is nothing like we’ve ever done before,” said Jina Santo.

The atmosphere was professional, but as Christmas music played in the background, there was a feeling of excitement. 

“We’ve tried to make this business as usual, but yeah, it’s exciting,” said CMC Administrator, Ryan Larsen. “Jina (Santo), Racy Hullman, and Kathy Messner really have been working long, long hours for the last couple weeks. They have been working on state calls and changing things, they have done a lot of work to get us here.”

At 10:00 a.m. Marilyn Lock was the first CMC employee to receive the vaccine to cheers and fanfare. As Lock finished, she gave a smile under her mask and a thumbs up. A few hours later, Dr. Fink and Dr. Westengaard received their vaccines. 

Ryan Larsen said they expect to be giving the vaccines through April and not all at CMC but through different clinics. He said there had been some talks of doing some sort of drive-through in the future, but nothing is set. As the hospital continues to receive doses, they will continue to ramp up their hours and efforts, working their way through the tiers set in place by the District Health Department.  

Due to the limited supply of vaccine, SEDHD and DHHS are using a phased approach. Phase 1A, beginning today in the Southeast District, will focus on providing vaccines to healthcare personnel providing care and treatment to COVID-19 patients. The vaccine is not yet available to the general public.

“I’m very pleased that we have a number of our staff physicians practitioners and others; Operation Warp Speed was pretty miraculous. We feel good about its safety and efficacy. We also know that some people, especially here in Richardson County, will be a little more conservative and that’s fine too. It’s something that we have given our staff the option to do (take the vaccine). I’m sure not everyone will choose to do it, but I’m pleased that a number are stepping forward and as I’ve talked to them, they’ve said, you know, I feel like it’s the right thing to do and I want to make sure that we start this process. To me, it’s a big part of returning to our normal routine. 

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization on a second COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna on December 18. “The Southeast Health District is likely to see additional vaccine product throughout the next few weeks and additional segments of critical infrastructure will be included in vaccination efforts,” said Brueggemann.

The COVID vaccine was developed and deployed within an accelerated timeframe. Brueggemann said that this expedited process is a product of prior research related to these types of vaccines, substantial funding support by the federal government, and the dedication of vaccine researchers worldwide. “No shortcuts were taken in the development of the vaccines and this moment will be pivotal in reducing the impact of COVID- 19 within our communities,” said Brueggemann.

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