St. Cloud Hospital performs COVID-19 vaccinations, first private hospital in Minnesota to do so

Nurse Amy White was the first healthcare worker at St. Cloud Hospital to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

St. Cloud Hospital became the first private hospital in Minnesota to administer COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday.

A group of doctors and nurses received the doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during a ceremony.

While the federally-run Minnesota VA hospital was able to perform vaccinations earlier this week, other hospitals in Minnesota said they were waiting for doses and training before they could move ahead with vaccinations.

First in line for the vaccine in St. Cloud was intensive care unit nurse Amy White, who said she was "honored" to be the first to get the vaccine at the hospital.

"37 years working in intensive care, I just see us fighting battle after battle after battle," she explained. "If I can be part of the cure and the prevention, I want to do that."

White says she’s seen the devastation of COVID-19 firsthand and is excited the vaccine is finally here.

"We’ve never had any battles like this in our unit in our career and so this is a major step we’re taking today," she said.

For many, like respiratory therapist Kim Cordie, it’s a historic moment of hope.

"I'm so excited about it, yeah, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel for sure," she explained.

ICU Doctor Ari Dalal says he’s amazed at how quickly the vaccine has been made available.

"Being able to do this in about ten months is unheard of," said Dr. Dalal. "So I’m very excited to be a part of that process."

Leaders at CentraCare say they completed the training and secured the doses they needed as quickly as they could so they could start immunization right away, making them one of the first in the state. Before they can go ahead with the immunizations, hospitals had to submit some proof to the state that they had completed the training needed to administer the vaccine. The first possible day they could formally file that was Thursday.

CentraCare jumped right on it, completed their training ahead of time, secured the materials they needed, the ultra-cold storage for example, getting them ready in time to be one of the first in the state to administer the state-issued vaccine.

The VA was administering vaccines earlier this year but that is under federal control and regulations.

"We’ve been planning and preparing for this for you might say ten months and now for the past four to six weeks we just ramped that up so we were ready to do it once we received it," said Dr. George Morris with St. Cloud Hospital.

CentraCare received more than 2,000 doses in this first wave and will continue administering the vaccine to health care workers and, eventually, to the community.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the second round of vaccines will start going out to hospitals next week. We also expect the vaccine to start being administered at nursing homes next week.