A year after COVID-19 vaccine's arrival, North Dakota has seen big benefits, expert says

North Dakota continues to struggle with the deadly virus, but the vaccine has undeniably saved lives, prevented hospitalizations and allowed the return of some sense of normalcy, said state Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell. 

Dr. Mubashir Badar became one of the first four Bismarck health care workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 on Monday, Dec. 14.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — One year ago, North Dakota's fight against COVID-19 fundamentally changed.

On Dec. 14, 2020, a handful of health care workers in Fargo and Bismarck received the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given out in the state after federal officials approved the drug for emergency use.

Executives and doctors at Sanford hospitals in the state's two biggest cities celebrated the occasion, saying that after eight months of pandemic hardship and loss, the vaccine provided a tool to ward off the disease.

North Dakota continues to struggle with the deadly virus, but the vaccine has undeniably saved lives, prevented hospitalizations and allowed some normalcy to return, said state Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell.

Residents of nursing homes, 93% of whom are fully vaccinated, have gotten the most benefit from the shot, Howell said. The fatality rate among the vulnerable group that once made up 60% of the state's COVID-19 deaths has significantly fallen, and officials largely reopened family visitation in the facilities due to the high level of inoculation among residents.


The vaccine has also helped keep more teachers in school and more workers on the job throughout the state, Howell said.

However, the jab could have done more good and saved more lives, Howell said. North Dakota remains one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with only about half of residents having received two or more doses.

With the anticipated proliferation of the highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19, Howell said getting vaccinated or seeking a booster dose is the best way North Dakotans can protect their health in the months ahead.

The following are COVID-19 case rates, deaths and hospitalizations tracked by the North Dakota Department of Health as of Tuesday, Dec. 14. Because all data are preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

Statewide case rates

  • ACTIVE CASES: 2,396

North Dakota's active cases rose by about 150 on Tuesday.
Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, has the most active cases in the state at 801. Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, has 292 active cases. Rural Sargent County leads the state in cases per capita.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,962

The state reported 14 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, including four from Cass County, two each from Burleigh and Adams counties and one each Grand Forks, Barnes, Sheridan, Stark, Grant and Mercer counties.
The state reported 12 available intensive care beds and 166 regular inpatient beds across the state on Monday.

More than 84% of residents that have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past week were not fully vaccinated.


  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 464,909 (59.7% of population)
  • FULL VACCINE COVERAGE: 392,749 (50.4% of population)
  • BOOSTER DOSES ADMINISTERED: 137,520 (17.7% of population)

The top two figures come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , which includes vaccinations performed at federal sites, while the bottom figure comes from the state's vaccine dashboard , which gives a fuller picture of booster and third doses.

Related Topics: NEWSMD
Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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