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M Health Fairview preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccine, after trials show safe and effective results

After FDA authorization, M Health Fairview will begin giving the vaccine to frontline healthcare workers, followed by high-risk patients.
  • December 09, 2020
  • By Staff Writer

Two COVID-19 vaccines expected to receive FDA approval in December are both safe and more than 94 percent effective, according to results from large clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people.

These early results are very promising, according to M Health Fairview Infectious Disease Physician Susan Kline, MD, MPH, who is encouraging Minnesotans to receive the vaccine when it is made available to the public.

“The arrival of the vaccines marks a possible turning point in our fight against COVID-19,” Kline said. “It is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine, and there are no reported serious safety concerns around the vaccine at this time.”

M Health Fairview will receive a limited number of vaccines after FDA emergency use authorization. Frontline healthcare workers at our hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities will be the first to get the vaccine in mid-December, followed by other priority groups in alignment with Minnesota Department of Health guidance issued December 8, 2020.

We hope to make the vaccine available to some high-risk patients in early 2021 when adequate supplies are available. Patients prioritized for the vaccine will include residents of long-term care facilities and people who have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk for severe COVID-19 complications. This plan follows state and federal recommendations from state and federal officials, including the National Academy of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Minnesota Department of Health

“Our first vaccines will go to the people who need it most – healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and emergency medical services staff,” said John Pastor, M Health Fairview’s vice president of operations for pharmacy and respiratory care. “It’s important that we get this to healthcare workers quickly so they remain safe so they are able to care for patients across the state.”

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The FDA is expected to approve two vaccines in December – one made by Pfizer/BioNTech and one made by Moderna. Together, the two vaccine clinical trials involved more than 70,000 participants. During the trials, only mild to moderate side effects were reported, including a headache, fatigue, fever, and muscle soreness. The trials found both vaccines were more than 94 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not use live or weakened versions of the virus causing COVID-19. Instead, these vaccines have genetic material that is taken from the virus. Once injected, this material “tricks” our bodies into producing a protein unique to the virus. When our immune systems detect this protein, they then create cells that recognize and destroy the protein. These immune system cells remain in our body for long periods, giving us protection against the virus.

Both vaccines come in two doses. People receiving the Pfizer vaccine will need a second dose 21 days after the first, while those who get the Moderna vaccine will need a booster 28 days later. Once you receive both doses of the vaccine, it will likely take several weeks for your body to develop immunity.

Minnesota may receive 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and another 136,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine, according to information laid out by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

“I plan to get the vaccine when it is available, and I will encourage all of my family members and loved ones to do the same when they can,” Kline said. “Stopping a pandemic means all of us must do our part.”

“Even after the vaccine becomes available, you should continue wearing a mask, social distancing, and taking other safety steps,” Kline added. “This vaccine means we are one giant step closer to getting our lives back to normal, but we’re not there yet.”