A letter from ND State Health Officer, Dr. Nizar Wehbi
This week marks the first anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccine being administered in North Dakota. I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the public health workers, health care providers, tribal leadership, pharmacies, partners, and all members of TeamND for the efforts undertaken this past year to provide North Dakotans with access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 virus has changed our lives. It has impacted how business is conducted, how education is delivered, as well as how people interact with one another. When the vaccine was authorized for use and arrived in our state, North Dakota had one of the fastest rollouts of the COVID-19 vaccine in the nation and was consistently in the top three states for the number of doses administered the first couple of months. North Dakota long-term care resident vaccination rates are in the top 10 in the country.
More than 400 providers in North Dakota enrolled to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, ensuring access across the state. According to the CDC's data tracker, we have reached a milestone this week with more than 974,790 doses of vaccine administered in North Dakota.
The 70% of North Dakotans over age 18 who have chosen to receive the vaccine have taken an important step to protect themselves from the risks of COVID-19 disease. This novel virus continues to impact the world, and vaccination continues to be our best defense against the virus.
As we look forward to the joy of the holiday season and the promise of a new year ahead, our work in fighting this virus is not over. As with other vaccine-preventable diseases, booster vaccines help to bolster waning immunity. All North Dakotans ages 16 and older are recommended to receive a booster dose. Early studies show a booster dose is effective and is needed to provide greater protection against the omicron variant. Booster doses are especially important for those 50 and older who are at higher risk for severe disease and for those who are around our most vulnerable. Children ages 5 and older are also recommended to be vaccinated.
The virus has claimed the lives of 1,948 North Dakotans and left many others grappling with loss and long-term impacts of the disease. We mourn with you the loss of what the future may have been. We will continue to remember and honor their lives.
As North Dakotans, we are strong. We face challenges head on, and we care for one another. In this season of hope, we look forward to the arrival of new antivirals that will supplement the vaccines and further reduce risk to lives and livelihoods.
Thank you for your support of public health workers and health care professionals working across our state.
ND State Health Officer