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How to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Bismarck-Mandan

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North Dakotans have several ways to get vaccinated for COVID-19, including medical facilities, local public health departments and pharmacies.

More information on vaccines and how to register for vaccine clinics follows.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Area hospitals are registering their patients for vaccination. Sanford Health Bismarck patients can go to http://bit.ly/360A7sN. CHI St. Alexius Health patients can call the hospital's vaccine scheduling hotline at 701-530-6776 or fill out a form at http://bit.ly/3pOs0qk to sign up for a clinic.

Sanford is offering the vaccine at all Bismarck primary care clinics and its clinic in Watford City. Patients can call or use their My Sanford Chart to set up an appointment. Walk-ins are available at the Sanford Downtown and North walk-in clinics. You do not have to be a Sanford patient to be vaccinated.

Both Sanford and CHI St. Alexius are vaccinating the general population.

Public health departments also are distributing the COVID-19 vaccine through clinics. Both Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health and Custer Health in Mandan are hosting vaccination clinics and are offering vaccine to the general public. Both public health units are offering Pfizer booster shots.

To register for a Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health clinic, go to https://www.ndvax.org and search for a Bismarck vaccination event. For assistance, call 701-355-1540.

Morton County residents should go to https://www.ndvax.org and search for "Custer Health" or call 701-667-3370 to register for a clinic. Custer Health has added a new vaccination clinic location at 1100 32nd Ave. SE in Units D and E, off Memorial Highway.

Thrifty White pharmacies in North Dakota began receiving doses of the Moderna vaccine on Feb. 11 as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program's goal to expand access to the vaccine by providing doses directly to pharmacies. The pharmacy chain has 30 locations across the state.

Thrifty White is vaccinating the general public. Go to thriftywhite.com/covid19vaccine to schedule an appointment.

CVS pharmacy locations are accepting walk-in and same-day vaccine appointments.

North Dakotans also can go to vaccinefinder.org to see where COVID-19 vaccine is available near them.

Who can get the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines were initially in limited supply, so North Dakota had to prioritize who received the first doses. The state developed a series of priority phases with the help of a vaccine ethics committee and is now in Phase 2, or the general public. 

Children age 12 to 15 can receive the Pfizer vaccine, which was initially approved for people 16 and older. Other pharmaceutical companies also are working to expand vaccination to children.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August urged pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine as an increased number of expectant mothers became seriously ill with the virus. Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Analysis by the agency found no increased risk of miscarriage for women who received at least one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The CDC in August recommended additional doses of the Pifzer and Moderna vaccines for people who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" because they might not have received the same immunity as people without weakened immune systems. People in this category should get an additional dose at least 28 days after getting the second dose of the vaccine.

These shots are not the same as booster doses, which are for people who initially received full immunity but their protection has weakened over time. Specific Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccine recipients now qualify for booster doses, and federal health officials are allowing people to mix vaccine brands for their booster dose.

The CDC recommends that people age 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities and people age 50 and older with underlying medical conditions receive a booster shot.

The CDC also says people age 18 and older with underlying medical conditions and people age 18 and older who are at an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their job or because they are in an institutional setting may choose to receive a third shot.

Children ages 5 to 11 can now receive the Pfizer vaccine. The children's dose is one-third the amount of that given to teens and adults.

How many vaccines are there?

Three COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Others are still being developed.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer's vaccine was approved first. It is a two-dose vaccine, with a 21-day waiting period between doses. The vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and comes in shipments of 1,000 doses. Moderna, another pharmaceutical company, had its vaccine approved a week after Pfizer's. The Moderna vaccine also is two doses, but with a 28-day waiting period between. It requires frozen storage, similar to how the chicken pox vaccine is stored, and comes in shipments of 100 doses. It is available for ages 18 and up.

Both vaccines are about 95% effective, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is one dose and uses refrigerator storage, making it easier to transport than the other vaccines. In a global trial, the vaccine was found to be 85% effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death. It was approved for use in people 18 and older.

Use of the J&J vaccine was paused for 11 days to allow federal officials to further research its safety. Scientific advisers ultimately decided the vaccine’s benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clots. Use has been reinstated both federally and in North Dakota.

How much does the vaccine cost?

Those providing the vaccine through the CDC's vaccination program can charge an administration fee but may bill only insurance. Providers "may not seek any reimbursement" from vaccine recipients, according to the CDC. People who are uninsured and cannot pay the fee cannot be turned away, according to a state Health Department COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet found at https://bit.ly/3o9FKuS.    

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the state's largest health insurer, will cover 100% of administration fees, a spokeswoman said.

What are potential side effects?

The available vaccines have common side effects, according to the manufacturers. They include:

  • Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea

Some cases of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine have been reported. The risk of having an allergic reaction to the Pifzer COVID-19 vaccine is about 5 in 1 million, and 2.8 in 1 million for the Moderna vaccine, according to the CDC. As a comparison, the risk of an allergic reaction after a flu shot is about 1 in 1 million. The risk of contracting COVID-19 or dying from it is much greater than the risk of experiencing an allergic reaction from the vaccine. About 1 in 600 North Dakotans have died with COVID-19, 1 in 215 have been hospitalized and 1 in 8 have contracted the virus, state Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell said.

The state Health Department reported two suspected cases of anaphylaxis in late December. One was not classified as anaphylaxis, and the other is still pending, Howell said. The federal government investigates adverse reactions, and more information will be published on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System Website at vaers.hhs.gov.

Federal regulators investigated reports of potentially dangerous clots in six J&J vaccine recipients around the country, one of whom died. Scientific advisers ultimately decided the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks. The FDA announced a new warning for the vaccine in July, saying it has been linked to cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome. There have been about 100 reports of the condition out of 12.5 million vaccine doses administered. Guillain Barre Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes muscle weakness or paralysis. Most people fully recover.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met in June to discuss rare cases of myocarditis -- or heart inflammation -- in teens and young adults who received a COVID-19 vaccine. Federal officials said Wednesday that there is a "likely association" between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the heart condition, though more data is needed. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated, saying the benefits outweigh the risk.

Myocarditis is more likely to occur in teen boys after vaccination. However, the risk of getting the condition from a COVID-19 infection is much higher than getting it from the vaccine. Post-COVID-19 myocarditis is also more severe than myocarditis that occurs after vaccination, Howell said.

What can I do after being vaccinated?

The CDC has released information on what someone can do safely after being fully vaccinated. Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after the single Johnson & Johnson shot.

The federal agency said fully vaccinated people can resume activities they did before the pandemic, but should wear a mask indoors if they are in an area of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission due to the delta variant.

More information can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html.

Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or sam.nelson@bismarcktribune.com.

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