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First COVID-19 vaccines administered at Big Sky Medical Center

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Ody Loomis, a nurse at the Big Sky Medical Center, receives the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Big Sky. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

Bozeman Health, county continue with COVID-19 vaccination initiatives

By Bella Butler and Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – On the top floor of the Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center in a closed off hallway, three nurses received the hospital’s first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We’ve just been waiting for this,” said Kelly Reynolds, one of the first Medical Center nurses to receive the vaccine, which received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18. “Obviously this year has been horrible for everyone in our community. It’s scary. And I think this is the first step to getting back to some normalcy.”

VIDEO BY CHRIS KAMMAN

Big Sky Medical Center was allotted 100 Moderna vaccine doses for the first round, enough to vaccinate the entire staff. Similar to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which was given FDA emergency use authorization on Dec. 11 and administered to staff at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital on Dec. 14, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses, spaced 28 days apart. 

“I didn’t even feel it,” one of the nurses said with a smile after receiving the long-anticipated shot. 

“After employees receive the vaccine we ask them to stay for 15 minutes just so we can monitor any more immediate side effects,” said Lauren Brendel, system director of marketing and communications for Bozeman Health and public information officer for the Bozeman Health Incident Command team. 

Some potential side effects of the Moderna vaccine include fatigue, headache and nausea, among others, but some levels of side effects are expected. The Moderna vaccine has been described as being quite “reactogenic,” meaning it can trigger an immune response that can sometimes be uncomfortable, or a sign that it’s working. 

The rest of the Medical Center staff will receive the first dose of the vaccine over the next few days, Brendel said. Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, Bozeman Health’s flagship facility, received 800 doses of the Moderna vaccine today to inoculate the remaining healthcare workers in the Bozeman Health system who were not vaccinated with the previously distributed Pfizer vaccine, of which Bozeman Health received 975 doses. 

Nurses at Big Sky Medical Center wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

On the same day that the first round of vaccines were administered at the Big Sky Medical Center, the Gallatin City-County Health Department unwrapped its own package of 300 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses. The Health Department is currently working with county health officials to distribute these doses to frontline healthcare workers outside of the Bozeman Health Network, including those working in smaller county clinics, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies as well as school nurses. 

Gallatin City-County Health Department Health Officer Matt Kelley said in a Dec. 23 virtual press conference that they are distributing the vaccine with three primary goals in mind: safety, timeliness and transparency.

“Frankly, to see that vaccine come out of the box today, I don’t think there was anyone in the room that didn’t have goosebumps and there might have been a few tears here and there, or at least strong-willed people trying to hold back tears,” Kelley said. “I think when you’ve gone through something like we’ve gone through—as a community, as a nation, as a world—to be able to see innovation and see those vaccines roll across the threshold is really pretty special.”

Kelley noted that although a vaccine is now available, the communities in Gallatin County still need to follow guidelines published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The best way to honor and thank those on the frontlines, he said, is to wear masks, wash your hands, keep your distance and stay home if you’re sick. 

On the Zoom screen, he motioned to a row of cards along his office window, notes of gratitude from the community for the Health Department’s hard work during the pandemic.

“If people really want to honor the healthcare providers who are out there putting it all on the line, if they want to support public health, what we would really like them to do is to help us reduce transmission, because it’s really making a difference.”

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