Moments after Lucie Pawlak and her two teens received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday at the walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Hugo's Family Marketplace on 32nd Street, Pawlak marveled at how convenient it was.
"It was relatively pain-free from start to finish, from paperwork to shot," she said. "I'm terrible about making appointments, but this is the grocery store – everybody needs to go to the grocery store. It was very convenient."
The Hugo's clinic, run by Grand Forks Public Health in the space formerly occupied by an Alerus Bank branch, operates every Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The clinic had its soft opening on May 7. All vaccines are free and do not require insurance information.
Thursday was the third day the clinic had been open. That afternoon, when Grand Forks Public Health workers opened the clinic for the day at 2 p.m., they were delighted to see a line of people already waiting, said Haley Bruhn, GFPH immunization program manager. About 45 minutes into Thursday's clinic, one public health nurse noted that they had already vaccinated more people than during the entirety of the previous Monday's clinic.
"It's going great today," Bruhn said Thursday. "We're really excited about the turnout."
By and large, people who were eager to go out of their way to get a COVID-19 vaccine have all received their vaccines, Bruhn said, and they have now shifted their focus to families, like Pawlak's, who can more easily access the vaccine where it's already convenient for them.
In the public health world, Bruhn said they think of the population as a tree: the low-hanging fruit have been vaccinated. The fruit at the top of the tree will be the most difficult to reach, and perhaps will never be reached at all. Right now, Bruhn said, they're vaccinating the middle-hanging fruit.
"I always say you've got to catch people in their triangle," Bruhn said. "Everybody has three places they go. For me, it's home, daycare and work. If you're not in that path, or one of those three places, I'm probably not going to make an extra trip for you, and so I think being in a Hugo's is a great way to catch people at that third place they might be going to."
At the Hugo's clinic, people can expect a streamlined process, Bruhn said – a public health nurse will take information such as name, address, date of birth, and health history that's pertinent to the vaccination. The clinic offers all three approved COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson – and offer education about each shot. After a short wait, patients are led into the vaccination room with a public health nurse, who will answer any questions about the vaccine and its effects.
Afterward, people are asked to stay in the vicinity for about 10 minutes to monitor any adverse reactions, such as lightheadedness or dizziness. Bruhn said those reactions have been exceedingly rare – at the mass vaccination clinic in the Alerus Center this spring, where more than 37,000 people were vaccinated, Bruhn said only one person was treated with epinephrine following a minor reaction to the vaccine.
For people looking to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, there are several options in town besides the Hugo's clinic. Bruhn said the easiest way to locate a vaccine appointment or a walk-in clinic is to visit vaccinefinder.org, a website run by the federal government that displays all the available vaccine appointments in your area.
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