The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Sanford Medical Centers in Fargo, Bismarck, Bemidji and Sioux Falls.
Sanford Health has secured 3,400 doses for North Dakota and 3,900 doses in South Dakota for the first week. More doses are scheduled to be delivered each week.
Sanford Health front-line health care workers in Fargo and Bismarck began receiving the first doses of the vaccine on Monday. The state of North 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.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of medicine that will change the course of the pandemic,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, vice president medical officer, Sanford Health Fargo. “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 Fargo and across our region.”
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Sanford has been putting plans in place to store and distribute the vaccine across the states it serves. 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.
Sanford Health is focused on reaching rural communities and making sure people get the vaccine as close to home as possible. Sanford will begin distributing the vaccine this week to front-line providers working in rural locations across the state including Sanford Mayville Medical Center and Sanford Hillsboro Medical Center.
Sanford has a robust courier network with 180 couriers that will facilitate distribution of the vaccine to smaller medical centers across North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa as more supply becomes available. Sanford’s couriers regularly drive 11,500 miles daily to deliver lab work, medications and other needs.
The FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The CDC has also recommended the vaccine for people ages 16 and older. The vaccine will be given as an injection into the muscle. The vaccination series is two doses given three weeks apart. In an ongoing clinical trial, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 following both doses.
“The U.S. has completed a rigorous regulatory and approvals process with unprecedented scrutiny and the data are clear that this vaccine is safe and effective,” said Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., chief physician at Sanford Health. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must continue to stay vigilant. Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do.”
Distribution of the vaccine is the latest in series of steps Sanford Health has taken to lead the way during the pandemic. At the beginning of December, Sanford Health launched some of the first outpatient infusion centers to treat patients with new antibody therapies for COVID-19 that have been shown to improve outcomes and reduce hospitalizations for high-risk populations.
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