MARSHALL – It’s been a long wait, but this week healthcare workers across the region are taking historic action to fight COVID-19.
Avera Marshall began administering her first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, with residents and staff of long-term care facilities the first to be vaccinated. Starting at the end of the week, staff at hospitals and clinics in places like Marshall, Granite Falls and Tyler will also receive doses of the vaccine.
“We are enthusiastic and full of hope” said Vickie Abel, vice president of organizational excellence at Avera Marshall. With vaccines, healthcare providers can help protect some of the community’s most vulnerable people from COVID-19.
Avera Marshall received vaccines from two different manufacturers at the end of last week. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage, will be used by staff in hospitals and clinics in the region, while the vaccine manufactured by Moderna is used for residents and long-term care workers.
Earlier this month, Stacy Neubeck, Avera Marshall’s communications coordinator, said Minnesota would use a “Hub and spoke” model for distributing vaccines in the state. In southwestern Minnesota, the facilities at Marshall, Willmar and Worthington will serve as hubs for vaccine distribution. Avera Marshall will keep some of her vaccine to administer and distribute the rest to other health care facilities in the area.
A total of 700 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be distributed to residents, employees and essential caregivers at six long-term care facilities in southwestern Minnesota, said Theresa Boeck, project manager for vaccine coordination at Avera Marshall. . The vaccines will be administered at Avera Morningside Heights, as well as health care facilities in Tyler, Granite Falls, Tracy and other communities in the region. Avera Marshall has 355 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for hospital and clinic staff, plus 95 doses for Avera Granite Falls staff and 55 doses for Avera Tyler staff, Boeck said. Since COVID-19 vaccines require two doses given weeks apart, Avera Marshall has also deposited enough vaccine for the second doses, hospital officials said.
The Minnesota Department of Health said Minnesota will take a phased approach to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to ensure high-risk populations like medical workers. In the very first phase of immunization, vulnerable populations such as nursing home residents and hospital staff are the top priority. As vaccines become more available, more groups can be immunized.
“We anticipate that the public vaccination process will be managed by public health”, Abel said – in the Marshall region, Southwest Health and Human Services would be involved in the planning. It may take some time before COVID-19 vaccines are widely available to the public, so it is important to be patient and continue to practice social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask in public, Abel said.
“These things don’t go away,” she said.