Beltrami Public Health shares details on COVID-19 vaccine rollout
According to Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen there could be vaccines available to health care workers at Bemidji’s Sanford location as early as next week. Sanford is one of 25 locations throughout the state that will receive initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
BEMIDJI -- Vaccines are on their way. Well, almost.
According to Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen there could be vaccines available to health care workers at Bemidji’s Sanford location as early as next week.
Sanford is one of 25 locations throughout the state that will receive initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
“A hub and spoke model is being used for delivering the vaccine,” Borgen said on Friday. “So they are initially going to these 25 locations where they have sufficient cold storage to manage that, and those sites will break it down into how much is needed at smaller sites and deliver to those sites during the next few weeks.”
In a press conference earlier this week, Gov. Tim Walz explained that the Pfizer vaccine requires storage at 90 degrees below zero. He said that test-runs in the state have been conducted successfully in coordination with the federal government and doses for 183,400 patients are expected to arrive by the end of the year.
“The way I understand it is, for the northwest region of Minnesota, the shipment for the whole region will be going to Sanford Bemidji and then they have a plan in place for how we’ll split it up and get it out to the rest of the facilities that will be doing these initial vaccinations,” Borgen said.
The Minnesota Department of Health says the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be given to people working in health care settings who could get the virus at work and people who live in long-term care facilities. Other groups that may get some of the early doses include first responders, essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions and older adults.
“What we anticipate is that sometime today or tomorrow the FDA will approve the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine that Pfizer had asked for,” Borgen said. “Once that’s been approved, then they will start getting it out to the states. But they need to develop some documentation that goes with it so people have a good understanding of how the vaccine itself works.”
On Thursday, a panel of experts formally recommended that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the Pfizer vaccine. Borgen said they expect the rest of the approval process to take place in the next few days. Then there will be training available next week for people who will be doing the vaccinations and managing the vaccine.
“It’s a very fragile type of vaccine, which needs ultra cold storage. So there’s a lot of specifics around how it can be managed to maintain the integrity of the vaccine,” Borgen said. “So they want to make sure that everyone is fully trained and ready to utilize that vaccine and get it out when the time comes.”
As far as the specifics, MDH explains that patients will require two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both doses must be of the same product/type of vaccine, and will need to be separated by either 21 days or 28 days, depending on the vaccine.
It also states that vaccine providers must sign a federal COVID-19 vaccination agreement and enroll with their state immunization program to receive the vaccine as it will not be available for purchase. Vaccines were instead purchased by the federal government to be distributed free of charge to all citizens who want one and are distributed to states on a per-capita basis.
Recipients will not have to pay for the vaccine itself, but the law does allow providers to charge for clinical visits or administration fees, funds that are eligible for reimbursement through insurance.
“Our local tribal partners are working through the Indian Health Service for their vaccination doses,” Borgen said. “So they’re kind of working on a different system than the counties are and the different health systems are.”
She added that the vaccination planning for local tribal band members may look a bit different than the rest of the population in the area.
“Some people may begin vaccinating as early as next week,” she said. “But for the most part it will be the following week before we start. We think. But everything is a moving target at this point.”
Borgen explained that a variety of factors need to fall into place in order for the desired timeline to become reality.
“It’s all dependent upon things happening correctly today, it depends on the FDA, and Pfizer being able to get their fact sheets completed so those are available to go out with the vaccine,” she said. “It depends on the shipping working, which was tested and it worked in testing, but we just need to make sure the vaccine comes and it’s all delivered correctly.”
In a Friday press release, Gov. Walz detailed the state's plans for distribution.
“There are a number of factors outside of our state government control when it comes to getting the vaccine to Minnesotans, including the federal government’s national guidelines on distribution and the supply of the vaccine,” Walz said in the release. "But in Minnesota, we are ready for the vaccine the moment it becomes available. Our infrastructure is set and our plans are ready to execute. Until then, we need to stay patient, remain hopeful, and keep up the fight.”
Gov. Walz also cautioned people to be patient as the continued rollout takes place, with things likely to continue well into next year. He also continues to encourage Minnesotans to take precautions such as wearing face masks, social distancing, hand washing and limiting social gatherings.
“It’s so hard, really until we actually have the vaccine and people standing there and they’re ready in line, then we know we’re set. But until then there’s still so many moving parts,” Borgen said. “We are working as fast as we can but there are still some things we have to wait for.”
More statewide information is available on the Minnesota Department of Health website .