Clinic director shares view from the vaccine frontline

Janice Johnson, right, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Allison Heger, a licensed practical nurse with Sanford Health. Director of Clinic Operations Brittany Jaehning shared her pride in how the vaccine distribution has been proceeding on the local level.

It’s truly exciting to be offer a little glimmer of life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Brittany Jaehning said.

Jaehning is director of clinic operations for Sanford Health’s clinics in Wahpeton and Lidgerwood, North Dakota, and Wheaton, Minnesota. Since distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine began, she’s seen the excitement.

“A couple of our patients almost got teary,” Jaehning said. “They were so happy to get that call, that they would receive this vaccine.”

Public health organizations in North Dakota and Minnesota are continuing to reach out to clients, manage the vaccine doses they receive and stay informed on new protocol.

“Fortunately, we received an allocation this week of (Jan. 18),” Jaehning said. “We were given 100 doses for our patients and we’ve been administering them out. We had 53 patients today (Thursday, Jan. 21) and we’ve got nearly 50 for tomorrow.”

The North Dakota Department of Health is responsible for vaccine allocation, Jaehning said. The process includes alternating distribution among local health departments, clinics and health systems and pharmacies.

“We don’t expect to receive anymore (vaccine) for three additional weeks,” Jaehning said.

Kayla Carlson, public health director for Richland County, North Dakota, also said her office is notified on a week by week basis about vaccine distribution. It’s all subject to change.

“The state is only receiving 10,000 doses a week. We have to understand that it can be a slower process. We are using every amount of vaccine we receive — we haven’t let anything go to waste,” Carlson said.

President Joe Biden revealed his administration’s coronavirus pandemic response plan Thursday, Jan. 21. It calls for increasing vaccination supplies and includes a campaign to allow the administration of 100 million shots within the president’s first 100 days in office, CNN reported. The 100 million shots would provide 50 million Americans with vaccines that require two doses.

“We’re going to make sure (medical experts) work free from political interference and that they make decisions based on science and health care alone, science and health alone, not what the political consequences are,” Biden said.

North Dakota is clearly leading the charge when it comes to vaccine administration, Jaehning said. Earlier in January, the state was reported by Backers Hospital Review as having administered nearly 74 percent of the vaccine it had received.

“It’s nice to have support from our state and the ultimate goal is giving enough vaccine to our patients. We’ve also had good leadership from our Sanford team,” Jaehning said.

Jaehning singled out Melodi Krank, senior director of nursing; Sarah Nygaard, clinical nurse supervisor; and Tiffany Ahrendt, director of patient access. All work in the Fargo region, which includes Wahpeton.

“We’re reaching out to clients,” Jaehning said. “We know this is not as straightforward a vaccine as the others we offer our patients. The process, from scheduling to access, has been extensive and they are instrumental in our success.”

Countless other local individuals are also keeping administration as successful as it is, Jaehning said. As of Jan. 21, COVID-19 vaccine distribution is still largely focused on elderly individuals.

“We do participate in a weekly call with the state, as do other health systems and pharmacies. I believe Essentia Health was also starting on administering doses and they’re on a similar structure as us. We’re glad to be able to have that weekly meeting and we want to get as many patients the vaccine as possible,” Jaehning said.

For more information on vaccine distribution in Richland County, read Daily News’ upcoming Profile, “Deep Roots…Growing Together”.

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