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COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in ND this month

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COVID-19 vaccine may be arriving in North Dakota as early as the middle of this month.

Dr. Paul Carson is an infectious disease specialist, and spoke at a state health department briefing today (Wednesday). Carson says two vaccines – by Pfizer and Moderna – may be approved for emergency distribution as soon as December 10th and December 17th, respectively. Both vaccines have shown a 95 percent efficacy rate in trials, and, if further review confirms – protection against more severe forms of COVID. Carson also says that while both vaccines have displayed short term side effects of fever, headache, and fatigue – those effects are mostly mild, and neither display any longer term complications or safety concerns. Carson says the vaccine is the turning point of this pandemic.

"Without a vaccine, there is really every reason to expect that the virus will continue to work its way through our population, through our communities, until it's infected most of us over the next several months. This would mean thousands of more North Dakotans hospitalized, and hundreds more deaths. A vaccine, quite honestly, is the only reasonable way out of this pandemic - and so choosing to not be vaccinated means choosing to likely get COVID-19 in the future as this pandemic continues to march through the population."

Molly Howell is immunization program manager at the North Dakota Department of Health. She says once the vaccine arrives in North Dakota, distribution will be very limited, and be prioritized for health care workers in referral hospitals and long-term care residents. She says a committee has been formed to determine who may be approved to receive the vaccine as more becomes available.

"There are almost 70,000 health care workers in North Dakota, and about 12,000 people living in long-term cares - and so for the first week's allocation, we will have 6,825 doses to divvy up." Howell said. "And because we don't have enough vaccine to give to everyone in phase 1A, we have established a North Dakota advisory committee on covid vaccination ethics. This is a group of five people who have volunteered - a physician, an ethicist, a local public health representative, a representative from the department of human services, and a representative from the department of health."

Howell says it is hoped at least 70 percent of the population of North Dakota can be vaccinated to achieve maximum protection from the virus.

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