Sky Lakes Medical Center received 800 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday morning. By the afternoon, dozens of providers and frontline staff had received the first of two doses. Sky Lakes will follow the Oregon Health Authority’s guidance on internal prioritization and shots will be scheduled according to a priority list that is based on risk of exposure and risk factors for severe disease.

First priority will be staff in the COVID ICU unit, at the COVID test site, Respiratory Therapy staff and Lab personnel who process COVID specimens. Followed by staff in the COVID medical unit, personnel in the Emergency Department, providers and others critical to the function of the hospital, and staff who support the critical providers and services.

The Moderna vaccine is a mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine; mRNA vaccines don’t contain live virus and carry no risk of causing disease in the vaccinated persons. The mRNA vaccine tells our cells to make a piece of the spike protein that is found on the surface of the SARS-COV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19). This is harmless to the vaccine recipient and it stimulates the immune system to make antibodies to protect the body against future infection.

When the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 infection attempts to enter your body, your immune system is then able to defend against it, greatly reducing the chance of infection and its severity.

Once the spike protein is created the cell breaks down the mRNA and disposes of it. Despite rumors circulating on the internet suggesting otherwise, the mRNA cannot be incorporated into your own DNA.

The Moderna vaccine is proven to be more than 94% effective with no significant serious side effects. Of 15,000 people who received the vaccine in its development, 11 had infections, none of them severe, and no deaths. That compares with 185 infections, 30 of them severe, and one death among the same number of subjects in the placebo group.

Dr. Niskanen, Sky Lakes Vice President for Medical Affairs and a practicing Family Medicine physician, said: “This is a game changer but will only work for the community if 75-80% of people get vaccinated. This may not only save your life but also someone else’s.” While the country is waiting for more vaccines to be made and shipped: continue to wear a mask, avoid gatherings, and observe physical distancing.

The state is working with commercial pharmacies to distribute the vaccine to long-term care facilities; Sky Lakes is not part of that distribution. The Medical Center does not yet know when it will have enough vaccine supply to begin vaccinating high-risk patients, but anticipates it could be several months.

Questions about the vaccine or its safety? Please email