It’s being called “a shot of hope” as the regional effort to end the coronavirus pandemic is now underway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was delivered to Sanford USD Medical Center, early in the morning on Dec. 15. Sanford Health has secured 3,900 doses in South Dakota for the first week and more doses are scheduled to be delivered each week.
Hours after its arrival, seven health care workers including physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care staff were among the first to receive the vaccine.
Leaders in the Sioux Falls region have a lot of confidence in what the vaccine will do.
“It’s a new day in Sioux Falls and in the entire country,” Bill Gassen said. The organization’s new president and CEO addressed the media and health care workers at Sanford Imagenetics.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of medicine that will change the course of the pandemic,” said Mike Wilde, M.D., vice president medical officer, Sanford Health – Sioux Falls. “As the largest rural health provider in the country, we have been preparing for months for this very complex effort. Sanford Health teams have been working around-the-clock to plan for and lead vaccination efforts in Sioux Falls and across our region.”
‘Excited to be among the first’
Health care workers compared the COVID-19 vaccine to getting their annual flu shot.
“In our world of pediatric critical care amongst the nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians, we’re very excited for this to be here,” Jody Huber, M.D., said. She’s a pediatric critical care physician at Sanford Children’s Hospital.
“This has been one of the most transparent development processes that I’ve ever seen,” Dr. Huber said. “It’s been so extensively studied and what we’ve learned is not only is this effective but it’s safe which is why I’m so excited to get it.”
Dr. Huber encourages anyone who can to consider getting the vaccine so we can “get back to normal as soon as possible.”
Sanford Pulmonology respiratory therapist Jordan Dykstra said this entire pandemic has taken its toll.
“If I were to get COVID and have long-term complications, there’s higher risk of that than to get the vaccine,” she said. “It seemed like a simple choice. Get the vaccine and let’s end this pandemic.”
The state of South Dakota has set guidelines that prioritize groups for the vaccine until it is more widely available. The health system is strongly encouraging all eligible health care workers to receive the vaccine.
Integrated system begins massive distribution
Sanford has been putting plans in place to store and distribute the vaccine across its vast geographic footprint.
The health system invested in special cold storage facilities and has capacity to store almost 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Vaccine preparations involve pharmacy, supply chain, clinical operators, research and a number of other areas. It will be one of the first locations in the country to vaccinate long-term care workers this week.
“It has been a really long road,” Good Samaritan Society chief medical officer Dr. Gregory Johnson said. “Everyone has experienced the pandemic in a different way. For long-term care, they’ve been under lockdown since March. Our workers are tired. A lot of them enjoy a touch of the shoulder, a smile or hug. Those are the things we hope can start happening again as we emerge from this.”
In Sioux Falls, front-line staff at three Good Samaritan Society locations and two additional nursing homes will get the first shots from Sanford. The Good Samaritan Society is part of Sanford Health, one of the largest integrated health systems in the country.
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