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First local health care providers start COVID-19 vaccines

Medical professionals say the vaccine is safe, and they haven't experienced any side effects.

Sanford Worthington PA-C Lisa Milbrandt received her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday morning. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON ― Pfizer vaccines for COVID-19 arrived in Minnesota last week and the state reserved the first phase of vaccinations for health care workers, including staff at Sanford Worthington Medical Center.

Prior to vaccination, each staff member was asked to read information from the hospital and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explaining how the vaccine works and who is eligible to receive it. This is the same information the average member of the public will receive when vaccines are available for everyone.

Lisa Milbrandt, PA-C, got her first vaccine shot Friday. She expected to feel a burning sensation associated with other types of vaccines, but described the actual experience as "uneventful."

"I actually was like, 'Oh, you've already done it?'" she recalled.

Dr. Jenna Wolfe agreed.


"Honestly, it was less painful than the flu shot," she said.

At just 0.3 milliliters, the Pfizer vaccine is a very small injection. After the first shot, a recipient is about 55% immune to COVID-19, Milbrandt explained. After waiting at least 21 days, each vaccine recipient then gets a second injection, raising their immunity to approximately 95%.

Receiving the vaccine was described as a somewhat moving experience.

"It's really exciting and it's also a huge relief," said Wolfe, noting that she feels safer knowing that her vaccination will help protect her family.

Wolfe is Sanford Worthington's Hospitalist, meaning that she treats the sickest COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Coming into contact with the virus every day, she'd like to avoid getting it herself or carrying it to someone else.

"I think it's emotional for all of us who've been working in health care," Milbrandt shared.

COVID-19 vaccines were developed and approved rather quickly, causing some people to have reservations about getting vaccinated.

"I know it's kind of scary," Milbrandt said. "But we need to trust science on this one if we want to see an end to this pandemic.


"I've done the research to study mRNA vaccines," she added. "It's a new technology, but it's not unknown."

A messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccine is basically instructions for the cell on how to make the protein that triggers an immune response, Milbrandt explained. This new method has been studied for more than a decade.

The vaccine has been through the same steps of approval as any other vaccine, she added. This particular method is just faster to develop.

"It's passed immense scrutiny and gone through rigorous evaluation," Wolfe said. "I feel confident getting the vaccine myself."

"It's a very safe way of administering the vaccine," Milbrandt agreed.

While some conspiracy theories claim that the COVID-19 vaccine will alter people's genetic makeup, Milbrandt explained that the vaccine doesn’t enter the part of the cell where DNA (genetic code) is stored.

It may yet be discovered that the COVID-19 vaccine has some side effects, Milbrandt said. However, she's been seeing scary symptoms in otherwise healthy COVID patients since May, so she feels the vaccine is worth the risk.

"I see this as a very safe vaccine," she said.


Wolfe echoed the sentiment: mild side effects of a vaccine versus possibly devastating symptoms of COVID seems like an easy choice.

Even after they receive their second vaccine shots, Sanford's medical staff will continue to wear full PPE at work, because it's still unknown whether someone who's been vaccinated can transmit the virus to others.

At this point, it looks like Pfizer vaccines will go to health care professionals, and when Moderna vaccines arrive, they'll be used in long-term care facilities.

With time, vaccines will become available to the general public. When that happens, it's important for as many people to be vaccinated as possible, Wolfe said, noting that at least 70% participation is needed in order to achieve herd immunity.

"We need everyone on board with this," she said.

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