Feb 3, 2021
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
From left, Dr. Matt Lieser, LPN Lori Janni, LPN Darlene Meier, Dr. Bryana Andert, MCA Chris Binder and LPN Jessie Beranek represent some of the staff who will be administering the vaccine to patients receiving an invite from Allina Health.
NEW ULM — Starting this Thursday, anyone 75 years or older who has been a patient with Allina Health Care in the last five years could be eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine of COVID-19.
“We’ve been waiting for the vaccine for a long time,” New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) Director Toby Freier said, “we are thankful Allina has prioritized New Ulm be a main clinic site for the vaccine to be administered.”
NUMC received the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in December. Approximately 500 doses have been administered to staff and NUMC is continuing this phase of vaccination, but are now able to start rolling out the vaccine to patients 75 and older.
Even though the vaccine will be available for other groups there are still limited quantities. Of the 75 and older demographic, a lottery system has been set up for those who will receive it first. Names are selected randomly from an automated computer system. Those who have been selected will be contacted by Allina Health through a letter, phone call, or a message through the My Chart phone app.
Freier said the restraint right now is the supply of the vaccine.
“We have to use a lottery system because the vaccine coming in every week is roughly the equivalent of one to three percent of the eligible population,” he said. With this limited quantity, NUMC could not take vaccine appointments effectively or efficiently due to the demand. The demand for the vaccine is high.
Dr. Matt Lieser, president of the New Ulm Physician Group, said there is a lot of excitement about the COVID vaccine among the public and most people are primarily concerned with how soon they can receive the vaccine.
Lieser said the question people are asking is “How soon can I get it? Can you help me get it?”
Primary Care Physician leader at NUMC Dr. Bryana Andert said people are requesting to be put on special waiting lists for the vaccine or trying to find special methods to get early access, but assured the public there is no golden ticket to receiving the vaccine and NUMC is not withholding the vaccine.
“Our desire is to absolutely vaccinate people,” Andert said. “We’re committed to doing that as quickly as we can as we have vaccine available.”
“Despite the strong interest, we’re not going to have a vaccine for everyone,” Freier said. NUMC is asking the public to be patient and wait to be contacted by Allina.
Unlike the flu vaccine, patients will need to wait until Allina submits an invitation to receive the COVID vaccine. For the time being, these invites are limited to the 75 and older demographic as they are most at risk. Of patients 75 and older in NUMC’s region who have test positive COVID, 40% have been hospitalized. This is a relatively high number and the reason Allina is targeting this age group for vaccine priority.
Once a person receives the vaccine invitation, they must set up an appointment during one of the upcoming vaccination clinics.
Freier said there is some flexibility in scheduling the COVID vaccine. If the next available vaccine clinic does not work for the patient’s schedule, they can schedule for the following week. However, the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, 21 days apart. A patient needs to be available for two appointments. A person must be available three weeks after receiving the first dose to receive the second dose.
Concerns about the vaccine’s effectiveness and side effects have been minimal, but Dr. Liser gave assurances the vaccine was extremely effective with minimal side effects. Among the NUMC staff already vaccinated, side effects were rare and never serious. The risk presented by COVID outweighed any risk from the vaccine.
As more vaccine doses become available, they will be made available to other age groups. NUMC does not know how much vaccine will be supplied to the medical center until three or four days before it arrives. This makes it difficult to predict when enough vaccine will be available for expanded vaccination clinics.
Freier said to be successful with vaccination, the supply will need to be increased but he is optimistic the community will be on the back end of the vaccination process by summer.
NUMC will not be the only medical entity administering the vaccine. Brown County Public Health and Sleepy Eye Medical Center will also be collaborating on this process.
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