As the first waves of people are being vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus many questions, concerns and rumors about the COVID-19 vaccine have been raised. The COVID-19 vaccine is available at Perham Health and is safe for all patients to receive.

“There have been some rumors about the vaccine causing infertility and that is not true,” Perham Health’s Chief of Staff Dr. Kaliey Witt said. “I would encourage patients who are concerned about it to reach out to their primary doctor about the vaccine themselves and try to rely on them and not rely on the different Facebook posts that are spreading myths about the vaccine.”

Witt said the two vaccines currently available at Perham Health are the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccines require two doses and are 95% effective at fighting COVID-19 after the second dose.

Witt said it is a 21 days wait between doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days between doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Witt said the COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines so they cannot live in people’s bodies for long.

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“They are both mRNA vaccines, meaning that it just introduces the COVID protein to your body and allow your body to make antibodies against it,” Witt said. “We want to stress that it is safe. It is not going into the nucleus of your cells at all so it can not change your DNA. It is only lasting for a few hours to days in your system.”

Messenger RNA vaccines do not trigger an immune response like many vaccines do by putting a weakened or inactive germ into the body, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website on the COVID-19 vaccine. “Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies,” said the CDC.

mRNA vaccines have been in research for over a decade, Witt said. She said thanks to Operation Warp Speed the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 was able to be made and approved quickly without skipping any steps or safety procedures. “The building blocks have been there. This is just a kind of customization for COVID-19,” she said.

Witt said the vaccine could get approved and out quickly because unlike some other desires COVID-19 is extremely prevalent and many people were willing to volunteer for the vaccine trails.

The funding was also there for the companies to start producing the millions of doses of the vaccine that countries pre-ordered while waiting for approval from the Food ad Drug Administration, Witt said.

Witt said even after having both doses of the vaccine people will still need to wear their masks and practice social distancing. Right now it is unknown whether or not vaccinated people can still be carriers of the virus. Until enough of the population is vaccinated against the virus continuing these practices are recommended.

Those who have already had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine. “Right now we’re not sure how long natural immunity lasts,” Witt said. She said the current research suggests that natural immunity starts to wean after three months of having the virus.

Like with the flu vaccine people can experience some minor side effects. The biggest ones that Perham Health has seen have been sore arm, body aches, headaches, chills, and low-grade fevers, Witt said.

“Most people have been tolerating the first does with little to no side effects,” Witt said. “The second dose we’ve had a few more people getting body aches, chills-- that sort of thing. Tylenol and ibuprofen have been taking care of them really well.”

Witt said after the second dose of the vaccine she had to take one dose of ibuprofen about 36 hours after and it helped a lot.

Everyone should be getting the vaccine when they are eligible to get it, Witt said. Especially those in high-risk groups and who have suppressed immune systems.

So far Perham Health has offered the vaccine to everyone who qualifies to receive the vaccine in phase 1A, Witt said. Everyone in this group, who had the vaccine, has received their first dose and Perham Health started already administering the second dose to the people in phase 1A.

“Right now the Minnesota Department of Health is deciding when poeple can get it. So the best resource is checking the Minnesota Department of Health’s website,” Witt said.

Perham Health is also helping keep patients up to date on when they are eligible for the vaccine. Perham Health patients will be alerted through their MyChart portals and should check the Perham Health website and Facebook to stay up to date on which phase is eligible for vaccination, Witt said.

Meanwhile, Fergus Falls is one of nine community COVID-19 vaccine site in Minnesota as the Minnesota Department of Health partners with Otter Tail County Public Health and school districts. These pilot sites will initially serve adults 65 years of age or older and prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff, and child care workers.

While the pilot sites work to vaccinate this expanded group, Public Health will continue to hold clinics for health care workers and long-term care residents and staff in Phase 1A. Otter Tail County Public Health continues to have limited access to vaccine and are continuing to offer the vaccine to those in Phase 1A this week and into next week.

”While we work to get first doses of vaccine to all in those in phase 1A by the end of January, it’s been exciting to also work with the state on this pilot program. Once we have increased vaccine supply, these pilot sites will be a great asset in getting vaccine out,” Jody Lien, Otter Tail County Public Health Director, said. “We appreciate your patience as we wait for more vaccines to arrive in the weeks and months ahead and as we get more vaccine supply, we will vaccinate more people.”

There are a very small number of doses and appointments available at these pilot sites. In the meantime, residents can do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, social distancing, washing of hands, and staying home if sick.

Do not attempt to schedule an appointment at a pilot site unless one of the following applies:

  • Are 65 years or older
  • Are an educator or childcare worker, and have been notified by your employer that you have been selected to receive the vaccine.

Vaccine at these sites is very limited and available by appointment only. Those who are 65 years or older can use the scheduling portal on mn.gov/vaccine or call toll free at 833-431-2053. Education, school, and child care workers will receive information about signing up for an appointment from their employer. Please do not call local public health or your healthcare provider to register for the pilot sites. Walk-ins will not be accepted.

Otter Tail County has a new vaccine information line at 218-998-8378 or toll-free at 833-445-1578. This line will be updated each week with current vaccine information.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine visit

Perham Health COVID-19 at perhamhealth.org/covid19

Perham Health Vaccine Q&A at perhamhealth.org/covid-19-vaccine-qa-with-perham-health-physician-dr-paulson

Minnesota’s COVID-19 Response website at mn.gov/vaccine

CDC Vaccines at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html