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Published on December 22, 2020

Gundersen begins COVID-19 vaccinations on historic day in local healthcare

Our world and our community have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. We've faced months of sacrifice, waves of infection and illness and loss.

Today, relief.

Our shot of hope is here.

Dec. 22 marked a historic day in local healthcare and at Gundersen as the organization began to arm its staff against COVID-19 by vaccinating those at greatest risk of virus exposure at its La Crosse headquarters.

"This is a triumph of science, government, community and healthcare," says Gundersen CEO Scott Rathgaber, MD. "It's also a testament to the courage and compassion displayed by our healthcare heroes throughout this entire challenge."

Vaccinated first in front of a small group of her colleagues was Elizabeth Cogbill, MD, an Internal Medicine and Geriatrics specialist. Through tears, Dr. Cogbill told witnesses she thought of her long-term care patients, their families and her brave colleagues in those incredible seconds during vaccination.

"This has been an incredibly draining, catastrophic year," she says. "But in one year from now, we're going to have so much to celebrate."

Also vaccinated before onlookers were: Holly Bechtum, respiratory therapist; Josh Whitson, DO, Hospitalist and Internal Medicine specialist; Katie Cramer, a nurse in Critical Care; and Katie Brossman, an Urgent Care nurse.

"The staff here represent hundreds of Gundersen staff at locations in three states who have dedicated themselves to caring for patients and their colleagues in an unbelievably challenging time," Dr. Rathgaber says.

As Gundersen awaits additional allotment to vaccinate our staff and patients, remember the facts:

  • The COVID-19 vaccine, like ALL other vaccines, has been scientifically reviewed and approved.
  • The vaccine is 95% effective against COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is being monitored closely to ensure safety.
  • NO shortcuts were taken to make the vaccine available.
  • Most people will experience mild side effects like other vaccines: fever, headache, muscle aches and nausea. (This is a good thing. It means your body is building immunity against COVID-19.)
  • The vaccine does not contain the live virus and cannot give you COVID-19.

As soon as supply is available to all staff and patients in the coming months, Gundersen will send a vaccination appointment request  through MyChart, the health system's secure patient portal. Patients can help streamline the vaccination scheduling process by registering now for MyChart.

As Gundersen continues to make its way through the most important, complex public health effort in our nation's history, getting the vaccine and following fact-based measures proven by science will help us reduce the burden of COVID-19.

"Those two things combined is how we are going to see an end to this pandemic," Dr. Cogbill says. "Hang on. The end is in sight."

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