• 34°

Help is on the way

First round of employee vaccinations begin at Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin

There were a lot of smiles and plenty of enthusiasm at Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin as a historic surge against COVID-19 began with the first rounds of vaccinations taking place.

Corey Stump, a certified registered nurse who works at Austin and Albert Lea, was one of the first Austin employees to receive the vaccine on Tuesday afternoon and she came out with an optimistic outlook.

“I feel excited,” Stump said. “I think this is the only way that we’re going to get through it and I’m happy that it started today. I’m happy to do my part to help the community and I hope that others follow.”

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the medical world over the past nine months as employees have had to make adjustments on the fly. The vaccine is a beacon of hope for those who have had to undergo vast amounts of stress during the pandemic.

“It’s been a learning curve. Back in March we had to relearn how to do our job,” Stump said. “With the current surge, we’re better at all this protective equipment but it’s hard to see it up close. We’re ready for it to be over.”

Mayo Clinic Health System-Albert Lea administered its first vaccine shots on Monday and there was a feel of nervous excitement in Austin as the vaccine was finally ready to be let out. Kristina Grunzke, a primary care nurse manager at MCHS-Austin, said a lot of work has gone into preparing for this week.

“This is not something that happened very quickly. We’ve been working on this for quite awhile. It’s taken a huge team,” Grunzke said. “We’ve had everybody from housekeeping, our environmental services, our construction crew, admin assistants, to upper leadership and nurses. It’s a team effort to get this all taken care of. It’s not just one group.”

While it will take some time to get the vaccination out to the public, and while  there is a lot of work still to be done, Grunzke took in the day with proper recognition of the magnitude of the moment.

“There’s something about being part of a historical event like a pandemic that is almost mind blowing. It’s an amazing thing to be part of this,” Grunzke said. “I think there is a great sense of excitement that this is here. We have something coming to help us get out of what we’re living daily right now. There was a great sense of joy once we heard the vaccine had made it to Rochester.”

Anyone who receives the vaccine will require a second shot three weeks after the first one.

“The vaccine is essentially an antidote to help stop the virus in its tracks, and it offers hope and healing from the devastating effects we’ve all seen during this pandemic,” said Deepi Goyal, M.D., chair of the clinical practice for Mayo Clinic Health System’s Southeast Minnesota Region. “As a physician who has taken care of patients suffering from the virus, and having the virus myself earlier this summer, this is a joyous moment for me both personally and professionally.”

Mayo Clinic expects to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to all staff over the next two to three months and Patient vaccinations for COVID-19 are expected to begin soon.

The COVID-19 vaccine is optional for staff and the distribution plan prioritizes eligibility based risk level and aligns with public health guidance. The earliest group to be vaccinated will be the front-line workers and caregivers.