Horizon Public Health is adding another tool to its toolbox in fighting COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Dec. 22 Horizon Public Health said it’s anticipating receiving doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Having a safe and effective vaccine has been a top federal priority to respond to this pandemic, Horizon health leaders said.

Hospitals in the Douglas County area have already been receiving and administering their Pfizer vaccine. Although the vaccine supply will be limited at first, it will be used in these early stages to achieve the most impact possible, according to Horizon.

Horizon Public Health nurses anticipate starting to administer vaccines to initial priority groups beginning in late December and early January.

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During this historic time, Horizon is asking for the public’s “patience and partnership” as it works through the ongoing details that are emerging about COVID-19 vaccination.

“We are ready to begin the next phase in this pandemic with the arrival of safe and effective vaccines as a tool,” says Ann Stehn, Horizon Public Health administrator. “Horizon Public Health extends our sincere thanks to everyone who is helping to fight this pandemic. It is our number one goal to distribute the vaccine to as many people as we can.”

Horizon has been planning for how it will vaccinate individuals through the identified phases, as well as sites that will serve as vaccination stations.

Initial doses of vaccine will be administered using the guidelines set by the federal and state government as a part of the Phase 1A vaccine plan. This includes frontline healthcare workers, long term care residents, emergency medical service personnel, COVID testers and COVID community vaccinators.

At this time, vaccines will be delivered to hospitals and health care systems, pharmacies and public health. While this phase isn’t open to the general public, Horizon Public Health said it’s been helping to identify high-risk workers eligible for the vaccine and coordinating the logistics for clinics.

“As additional vaccines become approved and quantities increase, everyone will eventually have the opportunity to receive COVID-19 vaccine and more details will be shared as those plans solidify” Horizon said in a news release.

Horizon will continue to provide vaccines to some groups, but also will be working behind the scenes to assure that priority groups are covered, either by public health or other vaccinators.

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two shots given 21 or 28 days after the first shot depending on the manufacturer.

Those taking the vaccine will need both doses to build up a strong immunity against COVID-19. It’s important to get both doses and to receive the same vaccine for the second dose, Stehn said.

“Even if you are vaccinated, it is still important to continue to follow the prevention measures, such as masking, social distancing and frequent hand washing during this time,” Stehn added.

Horizon COVID-19 cases surged in November with 2,794 new cases in the five-county area it serves.

Cases in December have slowed a bit with 1,066 in total as of Dec. 22.

“We are months away from having enough COVID-19 vaccine supply to be able to vaccinate all those interested,” Stehn said. “In the meantime, please continue wearing masks, social distance, wash hands, get tested and isolate if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19.”

Horizon is warning residents to be cautious of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and potential scams related to the vaccine.

“We discourage the sharing of unverified information,” Stehn said. “Be sure to get your information from trusted sources, such as the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Individuals seeking information about the vaccine and the state’s phased distribution plan can learn more by going to the Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine website and continuing to monitor the Horizon Public Health’s website and social media page.