Because of his COVID-19 mask, one couldn’t see the big grin on Frank Putz’s face Monday afternoon as he received a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Carol Lavin, nursing supervisor at the Sanford Vermillion Medical Clinic.

His eyes, though, reflected both the sense of delight and relief that came about after getting a gentle poke in the arm.

He was one of the first members of the general public to receive the vaccine that day.

“I guess I am. Mary Jo (Olson, a physician of the Sanford Vermillion Clinic) put us up for this,” Frank said, laughing.

Frank, his wife, Geneva, commonly known as Ginny, and other individuals who received the vaccine Monday – primarily local residents ages 80 and above – will return in about a month to receive a second dose of the vaccine.

His first thought when he was told Monday that he could receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

“Surprise!” Frank said, adding that it felt “really good” to get the shot.

“We’ve been following the news – of course, it’s on day and night, you know – and I’ve been kind of waiting for it,” he said. “Of course, we all are, we’ve been eager to get it and in following the news, first they said it was going to be the caregivers (who receive the vaccine) followed by the nurses and then the service people and the people in nursing homes and then the elderly.

“Well, I figured we’ll fall into one of those categories at some time,” Frank said.

“We’re not in a nursing home; we’re in our own home,” Ginny said, with Frank adding that he still tries to regularly exercise, even during the winter months.

“When it’s cold and dark, I drive up to the Wal-Mart store early in the morning. There’s hardly anybody there, with my mask on and I’ve got the whole store to myself except for a couple stockers who are around and one or two clerks, you know,” he said. “And, it’s a good place to walk.”

The rest of the day, he stays pretty much at home.

“I do make a trip to the library and it doesn’t bother Ginny and me. It’s just the two of us, anyway, except she’s getting pretty antsy,” Frank said. “She hasn’t had a permanent in seven months, you know.”

Ginny noted that she would be getting her COVID-19 shot next, “if he,” she said, gesturing toward Frank, “doesn’t hog all of the vaccine.”

“This is a fantastic day,” Dr. Olson said after watching both Frank and Ginny receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time and it actually came quicker than I thought. But South Dakota has been doing a wonderful job in getting the vaccine out to the people who need.

“I’m very, very excited and happy,” the Vermillion physician said.

Lavin, the nursing supervisor at the Sanford Vermillion Medical Clinic, said this week local healthcare workers will receive their second dose of the vaccine. That may mean that Vermillion may receive up to 300 doses this week.

Dr. Olson, for example, received her first vaccination four weeks ago. “I’ll get mine (second dose) on Thursday,” she said.

She added, however, that there’s no certainty to the total number of vaccines that may arrive at Sanford Vermillion each week.

“We’re maybe at 200 to 300 week, but it depends on what the state gets for vaccine,” she said. “We typically can request on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we might get 100, we might get 200, we might get 50 – we don’t know,” Lavin said.

Sanford Health announced in a press release Monday that it would begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals that fall in to the phase 1D category on Jan. 18, beginning with South Dakota residents 80-years and older.

“This is another historic and exciting milestone in our efforts to defeat this pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Wilde, vice president medical officer for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. “This is a moment we have been waiting months for and we’re pleased to begin offering the vaccine to the public.”

How soon people will be able to receive the vaccine depends on the amount available and where people fit in to each priority group. Priority groups are set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and South Dakota Department of Health. Priority groups are established based on occupation, age and those with certain health conditions, as they are most at risk for COVID-19. People at high-risk will be prioritized first.

“The vaccine is safe and effective,” Dr. Wilde said. “Aside from the things we’ve been doing for months now, such as frequent hand washing, wearing a mask and social distancing, the vaccine is really the last leg of the race towards ending this pandemic and returning to a new sense of normal.”

Sanford Health will notify people when the vaccine is available for them. Those who meet the requirements of phase 1D will receive a phone call or My Sanford Chart message when they are eligible to set up their vaccine appointment. People are encouraged to enroll in a My Sanford Chart account if they do not already have one as this is the fastest and most efficient way to communicate. To enroll in My Sanford Chart, visit mysanfordchart.org.

People will be observed on-site for 15 minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The most common side effects are injection site pain, soreness and swelling. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be received 21 days after the first dose. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine should be received 28 days after the first dose.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit sanfordhealth.org and the CDC.

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