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County public health offers 1st COVID-19 vaccine clinic for EMS, vaccinators

With 60 doses of the Moderna vaccine on tap to be injected, Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller was the first to face the needle Tuesday morning at the Crow Wing County Community Services building.

Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller receives the first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Crow Wing County Public Health nurse Megan Adams Tuesday, Dec. 29, at the Crow Wing County Community Services Building. Crow Wing County First responders were given the vaccinations to insure they were safe on emergency calls. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Tuesday, Dec. 29, marked another milestone in the fight against COVID-19 as Crow Wing County public health nurses began vaccinating emergency medical service providers and those who will be giving the vaccine to others.

With 60 doses of the Moderna vaccine on tap to be injected, Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller was the first to face the needle Tuesday morning at the Crow Wing County Community Services building. Lohmiller said as a member of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association’s COVID-19 Task Force, he wanted to send the message that the vaccine offers a greater sense of security for both emergency responders and those receiving care.

“I feel confident in the research that was done, and as a leader and part of the … task force team, I feel it’s, you know — get out there and show the community that we can trust this and get the vaccine and move forward with this,” Lohmiller said moments before public health nurse Megan Adams delivered his dose.


Twenty-four-year-old Adams said she felt honored to be the one administering the first COVID-19 vaccine on behalf of Crow Wing County Public Health.

Crow Wing County Public Health nurse Megan Adams pushes the air out of the syringe Tuesday, Dec. 29, before giving a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a Crow Wing County First Responder. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch


“I think it’s going to be a historical moment and we’re excited to start this for sure,” she said.
The recent Bemidji State University grad started working for the county in March, meaning Adams’ only experience thus far in the public health field occurred in the midst of the greatest public health challenge this nation has experienced in a century. Much of that work involved contact tracing efforts for those who’ve tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“It felt good to be able to educate the community, you know, answer their questions, and just teach them more about COVID,” she said. “It felt like a big step. Small, big steps.”

Denise Sjodin, Crow wing County Public Health lead, talks about the importance of receiving the Moderna vaccine Tuesday, Dec. 29, for residents of the county. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch


Denise Sjodin, public health team lead, said the county sent notices to local fire departments, police departments and others who respond to emergency scenes about the availability of vaccines. Also among those eligible to receive the first 200 doses of vaccinations provided to local public health are those giving vaccines themselves, including public health nurses. It’s the culmination of months of work that’s evolved over time, Sjodin said.

“Did I ever think I was going to be involved in a pandemic? No. Is this what we trained for when we went to school? Yes,” Sjodin said. “ … Public health right now is at the forefront of all the plans. In the beginning, we were very involved with helping businesses reopen and, you know, apartment buildings and how to keep people safe, and now we’ve been doing the CI — case investigation — contact tracing calls. And now to kind of get our hands in and, you know, really in the forefront of the prevention aspect? Yeah, this is great for public health. Busy. Very, very busy.”

Crow Wing County Health nurse Megan Adams uses a syringe to measure a dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, Dec. 29, which was administered to Crow Wing County First Responders. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

After Lohmiller received the vaccination Tuesday, Adams informed him of his next appointment for his second dose, 28 days from now. She ran through what he could expect as far as common side effects and instructed him to remain in the lobby for 10 minutes for observation. Pain and swelling at the injection site are common, she said, along with fever, chills, tiredness and a headache. But as Michelle Moritz, public health supervisor, pointed out last month during an interview on vaccines, these side effects are a good indicator the body is having an immune response — which is exactly what’s desired from a vaccination.

While the first vaccinations represent what might be the beginning of the end of the pandemic, there’s still a long road ahead, the Minnesota Department of Health warns, and it’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly the vaccine will be available to various populations beyond those in the first phase.

“Even though we have two vaccines approved for emergency use, it will still take time before everyone can get it. We need to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people in the United States alone, so it will be a long process to make, distribute, and give that many doses of vaccine,” the health department notes on its website. “ … The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine are being given to people working in health care settings and people who live and work in long-term care facilities. They do not have the option of remaining home and separating themselves from others. Other groups that will get the early vaccine doses include frontline essential workers, adults 65 years and older, people with high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers.”


A vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is held by Megan Adams Crow Wing County public health nurse before drawing a dose from the bottle Tuesday, Dec. 29, at the Crow Wing County Community Services building. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, getting tested — all of these will remain necessary tools for reducing the spread of COVID-19 for the time being. But having hope is a welcome feeling after a grueling year.

“I’m hopeful that we have good turnouts at clinics so people are comfortable with the vaccine. I’m hopeful that we have enough for those people that are coming out for the clinics and that we can get through this,” Sjodin said.

Community testing to be offered in Wadena

Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health began accepting January 2021 appointments at its community testing sites across the state.

Each site offers safe, no-barrier COVID-19 testing at no cost to participants, a news release stated. Appointments are strongly encouraged, but not required. Among the 21 sites across the state, the Wadena Armory is one. Testing will be available noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30, and two stints next month: Jan. 4-7 and Jan. 13-16. Testing will be done via nasal swab and saliva testing will begin Jan. 4. The armory is located at 517 N. Jefferson St., Wadena.

To schedule an appointment through Dec. 30, visit primarybio.com/r/wadena . To schedule an appointment on or after Jan. 4, visit mncovidtestingappt.as.me .

“Our COVID-19 testing strategy has been data-driven since day one with the goal of offering low-barrier testing for every Minnesotan who needs it. The sooner we identify positive cases, the sooner infected individuals can take steps to isolate and stop the spread of the virus,” stated Dan Huff, Minnesota Department of Health assistant commissioner for health protection, in the release. “Our community testing strategy continues to expand access all across Minnesota and has already allowed the state to conduct more than half a million COVID-19 tests at community testing sites alone. This disease is spread by people who don’t even know they have it. We want people to get tested, even if they're asymptomatic. If you have been working outside the home during this dial back period, are a case contact or a young adult, you should get tested. By providing more options, we make it more likely that people will get tested and help us stop the spread of the virus.”

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .


Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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