Dr. Jeffrey Schlueter was the first recipient of the COVID-19 vaccine at Glacial Ridge Health System, receiving the first of two scheduled doses Monday, December 21. By Wednesday afternoon, many GRHS employees including 22 providers had received their first dose with the second dose administered 21 days later.
“This is a remarkable accomplishment for science,” said Dr. Schlueter (shown in photo above). “The effectiveness is better than we’d ever hoped.” Once adequate numbers of the public are vaccinated, he is confident that it will significantly change the pandemic.
Likewise, Dr. Roderick Brown (giving a thumbs-up as he gets his vaccine from Clinic LPN Lorie Orlowski) wholeheartedly believes the availability of the COVID vaccine is great. He has seen firsthand how medicine has advanced over the years. Dr. Brown reminds us, “The minor side effects some may experience from the vaccine – as with any vaccine – is a much better alternative to getting the disease.” As history reveals, the medical community has experienced other viruses that had emerged and they managed many health epidemics. “This is a bad virus and unique from others we’ve had in society.” He says, “Getting the vaccine when it is available will significantly help decrease the incidence and mitigate the severity of the disease in the U.S. as we continue to learn more.”
Dr. Schlueter encourages individuals who aren’t ready to get the vaccine to absolutely listen to good scientific information and be careful with what you read and believe from social media. “I have no hesitation about the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine,” he added.
As with all vaccines, it’s common to have soreness at the injection site and some people may get a mild fever, mild headache, etc. as their body responds to the immunization.
Meticulous Planning at Glacial Ridge for the Pfizer Vaccine Administration
In preparation for this highly-anticipated day, GRHS staff has been participating in the training from Pfizer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Minnesota Department of Health on how the vaccine works and how it’s given. Earlier that morning the first allocation of the Pfizer vaccine was picked up from the West-Central MN distribution site which had the ultra-cold storage required. Once the vials were taken out of ultra-cold storage and put in a temperature-regulated cooler – the ticking clock began. It had to be kept refrigerated, and all of the doses had to be administered within 5 days.
Upon arrival at GRHS, pharmacy staff transferred it to their refrigerator. GRHS Pharmacist Lisa Petrie (shown standing in the photo) and Pharmacy Tech Jessica Kloos are the ones primarily handling the vaccine.
CEO Kirk Stensrud stated, “We’ve meticulously planned for this in order to not have a single dose expire or go unused.” Prior to the Pfizer vaccine administration, pharmacy staff must strictly follow a series of steps to get it ready. Once the vaccines were removed from the refrigerator, they were reconstituted with a dilutant solution and needed to be given within a 6-hour window. The preciseness is why it is being managed by the pharmacist. Stensrud recognizes all staff for the teamwork to make it happen. “Our entire team has worked cohesively throughout the pandemic and this coordinated milestone is another marker of success – a real example of heartfelt care for our patients, community, and each other.”
The early stage of mass vaccination in the United States is monumental after enduring nine challenging months of the coronavirus pandemic. At the local level, each hospital in MN was allocated a number of vaccines for their healthcare workers. As directed by MDH and the regional emergency management coalition, each hospital can administer their allocation of vaccines only to those individuals identified in the first phase.
Monumental Milestone in Medicine
“While we hope a virus like this doesn’t happen for a while,” Dr. Schlueter said, “having a vaccine for COVID is clearly unique; it’s remarkable what can be accomplished if we stand back and let the science and medical experts do their work.”
As Dr. Schlueter and Dr. Brown both shared, “This vaccine will change the world.”
As more pharmaceutical companies receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EAU) for their COVID-19 vaccine and ramp up production, getting hundreds of millions of shots to people is a big feat. While it is expected to take months for the majority in the U.S. to receive the vaccine, this medical breakthrough will rapidly bring an end to the pandemic of 2020.
Vaccines Administered in Phases Across the U.S.
People are asked to have hope and patience, as we approach the exit ramp of this unprecedented global pandemic.
While the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination in the United States began with healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff, additional groups will be offered the vaccine in phases based on numerous factors determined by the CDC and MDH. Government and healthcare leaders are hopeful the availability of public vaccination can begin in late Spring – Summer 2021.
Vaccine Plan in Minnesota
PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCIES ARE WORKING ON A PLAN TO GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE TO SECTORS OF THE PUBLIC WHO MEET THE CRITERIA FOR EACH TIER. HOSPITALS AND PUBLIC HEALTH MUST FOLLOW THE TIERED APPROACH SET BY MDH AND THEY DO NOT HAVE ADDITIONAL DOSES AT EACH LOCATION.
Glacial Ridge Health System is NOT compiling a list of patients who want to get the vaccine. Please be patient. Horizon Public Health is following the specified tiers as vaccines become allocated to them for public vaccination.
If MDH changes plans and directs clinics to assist in providing public vaccination, GRHS would notify our community in the same way we do for influenza vaccines.