December 19, 2020
By RICHARD JENKINS
Dr. Jason Bombard was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Aspirus Ironwood Hospital on Friday as the region's healthcare system continues its effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Aspirus Health announced it received its first doses of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday and was beginning to vaccinate staff at several of its Upper Peninsula hospitals.
"Our top priority has been the health and safety of our staff and communities," said Matthew Heywood, Aspirus president and CEO Matthew Heywood said in Thursday's announcement. "It is exciting that this important tool in the fight against the pandemic is now available and we eagerly await the time when vaccine supplies become more widely available in 2021 to begin offering it to our community members."
As of Thursday, the Wausau-based health system was still waiting on information for when vaccines would arrive for its Wisconsin locations.
The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Watersmeet announced it was receiving its first 45 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday and was expected to begin vaccinations Wednesday.
With an initial limit on the number of vaccinations available, the first priority is to vaccinate those on the front lines of the healthcare field and nursing home residents, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The first groups that will be included in the vaccine include those residents who are in long-term care facilities as well as health care workers, particularly those on the front lines," Dr. Susan Schneider, the Aspirus System senior physician executive for primary care, said at a recent press conference.
"So those that are taking care of COVID patients on a daily basis will be given the vaccine first,and then as it becomes more available, we will roll it out to the remainder of our health care workers and then onto higher high risk groups."
Once those groups are vaccinated, the focus will shift to other front-line workers before the general public receives access in the coming months.
Although distribution of the vaccine is underway, health officials continue to stress that it is one tool in the arsenal against the virus and people need to continue to social distance, wear masks, stay home as much as possible and continue to wash their hands.