Grand Forks Public Health and its local health care partners have nearly completed giving the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to local members of 1A priority groups.

All members of the 1A priority group, including health care workers who provide direct patient care, long-term care staff and first-responders, have been invited to receive the vaccine, according to a Friday, Jan. 8, release from Grand Forks Public Health.

If you are a health care worker who qualifies for the A1 priority group and have not been invited to receive the vaccine, contact Grand Forks Public Health at (701) 787-8100 or GFHealth@grandforksgov.com.

Immunization Program Manager Haley Bruhn, who is coordinating the vaccine rollout for Grand Forks Public Health, said she has been pleased with the number of people who have been vaccinated in the first priority groups.

"We've seen a really good uptake, especially in Phase 1A with our health care workers and first responders," she said. "We were able to host three separate events so far with two more in the coming week, and, so far, the process has been extremely smooth. We're very satisfied with how things are going."

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As local vaccine providers complete inoculation of A1 priority groups, they will prepare to move on to administering the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 1B priority groups, which will include, in order, the following people:

  • Persons age 75 and older
  • Persons age 65-74 with two or more high-risk medical conditions
  • Staff and persons living in other congregate settings (i.e., corrections, group homes, treatment centers, homeless shelters, etc.)
  • Persons age 65 and older with one or more high-risk medical conditions
  • Persons age 65 and older with or without high-risk medical conditions
  • Persons with two or more high-risk medical conditions regardless of age
  • Child care workers
  • Workers employed by preschools or Kindergarten through 12th grade, including teachers, nutritional services, aides, bus drivers, principals, administrative staff, custodians, etc.

Vaccination of 1B priority groups is expected to begin within the next few weeks, or as early as next week. It's still too early to know with certainty when vaccinations of those groups might be completed, Bruhn said.

The latest communication from the state that she has received is that vaccinations of just the first tier of 1B priority groups – people aged 75 and older – could last about six to eight weeks.

Priority groups have been determined by a state COVID-19 vaccine ethics committee. After vaccinations are completed for B1 priority groups, vaccination providers will move on to C1 priority groups, which include other essential workers and people of all ages with underlying health conditions.

North Dakota COVID-19 vaccine priority groups. // North Dakota Department of Health
North Dakota COVID-19 vaccine priority groups. // North Dakota Department of Health

President-elect Joe Biden plans to release all doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines upon taking office in an attempt to speed up the vaccination rollout nationwide. This is a departure from the current strategy of holding back half of the doses to ensure everyone who receives the first dose will receive a second dose. Bruhn said she has not received any communication about how this could impact the vaccine rollout timeline in Grand Forks, but said that the timeline of local vaccinations will depend largely on state allocation of doses.

Though people in the first tiers received invitations to be vaccinated, as vaccination providers move into 1B and subsequent priority groups, people will be asked to self-identify. When someone's priority group is called to be vaccinated, registration will open through a program called PrepMod, which will be similar to the process people used to register for a COVID-19 test, Bruhn said. The program also will send email notifications when patients are able to receive the second dose.

Grand Forks Public Health will continue to update which tiers are open for vaccinations through their social media pages and through local media, and residents should continue to monitor those channels.

She urged people to register to be vaccinated in the earliest tier they qualify for in order to move the vaccination process along as quickly and efficiently as possible.

After receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, patients must wait about a month before receiving the second dose. It will take another two weeks for patients to be considered immune. People who have received the vaccine will be urged to wear masks and avoid large crowds until a large segment of the population is considered immune.

"We're still going to continue with the current recommendations that we have," Bruhn said. "The vaccine is 95% effective, which is extremely high, and we're very pleased with that, but it's not 100%, and so we need to continue to practice our state public health measures that we have."

After several weeks of cases trending downward in North Dakota, case numbers have risen slightly in recent days, likely a result of gatherings over the holiday season. On Friday, Jan. 8, there were 2,122 confirmed active cases in North Dakota, 173 of which are in Grand Forks County. The North Dakota Department of Health reported 30 new cases in Grand Forks County on Friday and one local death of a man in his 70s.

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