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Floyd County Medical Center staff receiving COVID-19 vaccine

By Bob Steenson,

Floyd County Medical Center doctors, nurses and other employees began rolling up their sleeves this week as the first COVID-19 vaccines became available in the community.

Two-hundred doses of the Moderna vaccine were delivered to the medical center Tuesday, and a few shots were administered that day, with many more following on Wednesday. The vaccinations will continue next week.

“We’re making history. We’re taking the first step to ending this,” said Registered Nurse Charity Fecht, infection prevention, quality improvement, employee health, risk management director at the medical center, regarding the pandemic.

Medical Center Administrator Rod Nordeng said, “What we’re feeling is it’s almost festive with staff to get it done. There’s a huge sense of relief.”

Fecht said, “This is the best Christmas gift we could give them.”

Dr. Angela VanGilder was one of those receiving the first dose of the two-dose vaccine Wednesday morning.

“That didn’t hurt. That was less painful than the flu shot,” VanGilder said, adding that the beginning of vaccinations against the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 “is very significant.”

“Trust science,” the medical center’s general surgeon said. “I encourage everybody to go and get the vaccine” when it becomes available to them.

Fecht said the medical center received 200 dozes in frozen vials of the Moderna vaccine, with ten doses in each vial. She said the vaccine can be stored for long periods while frozen, must be stored in a refrigerator and used within 30 days once thawed, and must be used within six hours once removed from the refrigerator.

She said another 200 doses will arrive to be administered at least 28 days after the first doses are given.

Nordeng said when an initial sign-up was held about six weeks ago, about half the staff signed up.

Fecht said it’s probably up to 65% to 70% signed up now, and some people have said they have had a problem signing up because the online form being used by the hospital can only be opened by one person at a time.

She said because the number of doses available lines up pretty well with the medical center’s staff size, it was offered to all employees. Some people have inquired about having spouses also get vaccinated, but Fecht said she isn’t allowed to do that now.

Nordeng said he anticipates that even more staff will sign up for the vaccine once the word gets around from people who have received it.

Fecht said the initial reaction is that the shot is relatively painless, and she has followed up with some who received it the day before who said there’s no more arm pain than getting a flu shot, and another person felt “totally fine — can’t tell today that I even had it.”

Nordeng said no one who had received the shot on Tuesday had called in sick Wednesday because of it.

Iowa received about 26,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine last week, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The priority was to first vaccinate frontline health care workers, and 8,400 vaccinations were completed

The Moderna vaccine began to arrive in Iowa this week after it was approved for emergency use by federal regulators on Friday. It is more suited than Pfizer’s vaccine for use in rural areas since it doesn’t require special ultra-cold storage freezers or transportation with dry ice.

The Moderna supply is being distributed to hospitals and clinics in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, Iowa officials said.