Minnesota hospital system outlines vaccine distribution plan

A file image shows a medical worker preparing a vaccine during a COVID-19 vaccine trial. (Photo by Adriana Adie/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

An advisory committee for the CDC worked to tackle one of the country’s most pressing questions: Who should be first to get the COVID-19 vaccinations?

The committee voted that healthcare workers and long-term care residents should both get their vaccines right away, but heavily weighted toward healthcare.

Dr. John Smyrski, the Vice President of Abbot Northwestern in the Twin Cities, says his hospital is tight on space due to staff shortages. He says anywhere between 125 and 150 employees are out every day due to COVID-19 exposures.

“And so our goal is to immunize as many as we can at the highest risk to ensure that we are available to provide care for our patients,” said Smyrski.

Smyrski is also part of the vaccine distribution planning process for all of Allina Health. They have more than 15,000 employees in direct patient care and have been told to expect just shy of 3,000 doses of the vaccine later this month.

For weeks, they have been working out who is the first of the first.

“Actually, it’s a very complicated process that we’re going through,” he said. “And it is, it’s the frontline. It starts with the emergency department. It’s the entire team, so physicians, nurses, EMTs, it’s even environmental sciences because we need to keep the machine running.”

The Minnesota Department of Health said they have similar priorities to protect the healthcare workers and the vulnerable before offering it to everyone else.

“Once those last federal recommendations happen, we’ll still need about a week in Minnesota to make sure all of our guidance, education and training has taken place before we start giving vaccines,” said state infectious disease expert Kris Ehresmann.

The other complication is that it’s a two-dose vaccine, so timing is critical.

The vaccines still need federal approval, but that is expected soon.

Allina Health is in phase three of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial, with early results looking promising.