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The first vaccines at Southwest Healthcare Services for COVID-19 have been administered. Shortly before Christmas, the shipment of roughly 40 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived at the facility in Bowman by way of courier. Lisa Knopp, clinic manager, could be seen greeting the courier with a wave of enthusiasm as many had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the doses. Vaccines were administered within a few hours of arriving at Southwest Healthcare Services.

The first official vaccine administered was to LPN Cathy Sime. Overall the goal has been to vaccinate 40 staff members based on the allotted amount Southwest Healthcare Services was given. As of Jan. 6, 33 vaccines had been given. Nursing home residents received the vaccine on Jan. 8.

The Moderna vaccine, much like the Pfizer counterpart, will be administered in two doses. An initial shot and a booster 28 days later. Early trial data shows a near 94 percent efficacy. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at temperatures at nearly 100 degrees below zero, which can make it difficult for facilities with limited resources to store the vials at that kind of temperature. But the Moderna version can be stored at normal freezer temperatures, making it much more accessible to rural areas like Bowman County.

These vaccines are the first of their kind. Built with mRNA (Messenger RNA), the solution does not actually contain any amounts of the COVID-19 virus, but includes only the surface protein of the virus. When injected, the surface protein triggers the body to recognize it and build antibodies to target that specific protein. Those antibodies can then recognize the virus when it comes into contact with the host and allows the body to destroy it before the virus has a chance to invade cells and replicate.

Reports of side effects have been limited to some aches and soreness in the upper arm muscles where the injection is administered, something many of the employees who have received the vaccine said was tolerable and worth the benefits of the antibody protections.

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