By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Vaccinations of residents and staff members for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, December 29.
Around 82 percent of the residents and about 30 percent of the staff were vaccinated on December 29, said Kenzie Galetka, administrator at CHRC.
Residents and staff members are not required to be vaccinated, so it is entirely their choice, she noted.
The vaccine used at CHRC is produced by the pharmaceutical company Moderna.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the Moderna vaccine arrives frozen at between -13 degrees Fahrenheit and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine vials, which contain 10 doses, can then be stored in the refrigerator at temperatures between 36 degrees Fahrenheit and 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 days before the vials are punctured. The Moderna vaccine requires a second dose after 28 days and is 94 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.
In addition to the Moderna vaccine, there is one other COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, that is authorized and recommended for use in the United States.
“We will have another clinic in 28 days to get the second dose for these individuals (who had a first dose) and then for those who declined (the first dose of vaccine) and wanted to wait will also be done at the January clinic,” Galetka said.
“Looking at those numbers, I feel that we will have somewhere between 85 percent and 90 percent of our residents vaccinated,” she said.
“We have about half of the staff that did not get vaccinated (December 29) who are feeling confident they will be ready for the January clinic. Folks want to have more time to talk with family and their doctors,” Galetka said.
“I am thinking we will be close to between 65 percent and 75 percent of our staff vaccinated,” she said, noting that the Moderna vaccine is not able to be given to staff who are under the age of 18.
“If we take those (younger) staff out of the count, I think we could get closer to that 75 percent mark,” Galetka said.
The Moderna vaccine was administered at CHRC through CVS Pharmacy.
“The CDC sent us information through a reporting tool that is used by long-term care facilities asking if we wanted to partner with a pharmacy for vaccination,” Galetka said.
“From there, they gave us the option to use Walgreens or CVS, pharmacies that they selected and enrolled to assist facilities likes ours,” she said.
“Then, it was completing some paperwork and just waiting for the call that they were ready to get us vaccinated. We got the call last Wednesday that they were ready for us and coming (December 29),” Galetka said.
The start of the vaccination process at CHRC is the start of vaccinating as many people as possible overall so there are fewer cases of COVID-19 in the community, she said.
“This vaccination is another avenue for us to take to just do what we can (to stop the spread). I imagine in months to come, we will hear more about what it means (for CHRC residents and staff) to be vaccinated. Right now, we are just happy to have had the opportunity to get it for our residents and staff to keep them healthy and safe,” Galetka said.
Galetka said she realizes community members are anxious to be able to visit family members and friends at CHRC and urges everyone to remain patient.
“Aside from remaining patient, it would be helpful for community members to consider getting the vaccination when it comes time for it to be provided to the public,” she said.
“The more folks who are vaccinated, I believe, will mean a better chance for all of us to get back to ‘normal.’ I highly encourage every person questioning the vaccine to speak with their providers to ensure that the vaccination is right for them and to get their questions answered,” Galetka said.
“When reading information on these vaccines from articles on Facebook and the internet, ensure you are reading credible information from reliable sources. I believe having that one-to-one conversation with your trusted provider is a great place to start for getting information that is best for you,” she said.
When asked if there was anything else she wanted people to know, Galetka said she wanted the community to know that staff members at CHRC have worked tirelessly to do everything in their power to keep the residents safe.
“We have had no positive resident cases here at CHRC and that is something to be really proud of in the middle of a pandemic, especially with the spike last month,” she said.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website, a total of 9,005 people tested positive for the virus in Wisconsin on November 11, while the daily average in parts of November was around 6,000 positive cases.
“Many nursing homes are struggling. It was a beautiful moment to watch the staff and residents pull up their sleeves and continue to combat this pandemic together. I think it was the most beautiful moment I’ve seen in a long time,” Galetka said.
“As much as I wish this pandemic was not a part of our lives, it is, and it is pretty amazing to be able to see, and to be a part of, getting one step closer to putting COVID-19 behind us,” she said.
The two vaccines approved for use in the United States are mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines that teach our cells how to make a piece of a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies, according to the CDC website.
The vaccines do not contain any part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus so it is impossible for the vaccines to give anyone COVID-19. Instead, the vaccines teach our cells to have an immune response to the spike protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the ‘spike protein.’ The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC website states.
“The immune response (to the spike protein), which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies,” according to the CDC.
After the instructions from the mRNA are inside the immune cells, “the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein does not belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection,” according to the CDC website.