Published on December 21, 2020

Essentia Health administers first COVID-19 vaccines in Brainerd Lakes area

Dr. Rebecca Holcomb, Emergency Department and Dr. Minto Porter, Allergy, celebrate receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations

Nine long months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Essentia Health was thrilled to take the first step toward herd immunity and ending this public health crisis on Monday, December 21, 2020.

It’s expected that by the end of the first day, over 110 front-line workers, those directly involved in caring for COVID-positive patients, will be vaccinated against a virus that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 Americans. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which received emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 10, requires two doses 21 days apart to be fully effective.

“We are very excited to begin offering Covid-19 vaccinations to healthcare workers and our EMS partners in Phase 1a, Priority #1 of MDH allocation guidelines. We hope that there will be a robust continuous supply of vaccine so as to move quickly to other prioritized groups and the general community. It is very important that everyone realize that we need to vaccinate at least 70% of our population to reach “herd immunity” and stop the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Peter Henry, Chief Medical Officer for Essentia Health.

“The vaccine is 95% effective which is very high for any vaccine but you need to have both doses and full immune response is not reached until 1-2 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine. The initial trials show the vaccine is safe and has gone through all of the required steps for a vaccine to be brought to market for public use. I want to stress the importance of continuing to practice social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask while in public.”

Angela Schilling, RN, Emergency Department Nursing Director echoed those thoughts, “This is the first step in the right direction, however its important to continue to take the current precautions as advised by the CDC.”

Earlier this week, Essentia Health in Brainerd received its initial shipment of 2,340 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That allotment included 588 doses for Essentia Health, with the remainder for distribution to several other hospitals in central Minnesota. Additional COVID vaccine allocations are expected weekly and will vary in quantity.

Essentia will adhere to CDC and state health department guidelines for the distribution of vaccines. The first phase includes health care providers and residents of long-term-care facilities. They will be followed by essential workers, such as teachers, police officers and firefighters, then adults with high-risk medical conditions and those over the age of 65. Waitlists are not part of either CDC or state health department guidelines at this time.

The timeline for other populations will be determined by the roll-out of additional vaccines and quantities. For more information visit our COVID-19 Vaccine Information page.

It is important to note that until a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing continue to be necessary.

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