The big question on everyone’s mind is when will things get back to normal and what exactly will that mean?

No one has a crystal ball, but as a practicing physician and a health care administrator, I foresee North Dakota taking a big step toward normalcy once we’ve built a herd immunity. With a high vaccination rate, that could be as early as June.

BCBSD helps eliminate vaccine barriers

Herd immunity occurs when enough people—upwards of 85%—become immune to COVID-19. That happens in one of two ways. The first is exposure to the virus and the second is immunization.

To that end, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is working to eliminate barriers for members to be immunized. The vaccine itself is paid through U.S. taxpayer dollars and the cost of administering it is being absorbed by BCBSND.

So far so good

The state of North Dakota is leading the nation in getting its allotted COVID-19 vaccine doses out to its people. I serve on a national vaccine panel and look with pride to see our state with a 99% distribution rate, while some other states are at 50% or less.

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That means there are parts of the country where eligible people are waiting for a vaccine that is sitting on a refrigerator shelf. In contrast, the North Dakota Deptartment of Health vaccination distribution plan is most definitely working.

The vaccines are working

We’re on pace for a smaller COVID-19 impact than what the country historically sees for pandemics. And for that, we can thank advanced science and expedited vaccine protocols. In fact, we can thank vaccinations for nearly eradicating diseases that were once a threat to our society—things like polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and many other viruses.

While the COVID-19 vaccines are new, the supporting science is not. My colleague Krystal Wheeler Dennis points out that approved vaccines use proven research and delivery technology applied to this specific virus.

The result? Success is high and adverse reactions are low—extremely low. As I write this, two vaccines are in the marketplace—Moderna and Pfizer.

With Moderna’s product there were just five anaphylactic reactions per million doses administered. With Pfizer’s vaccine, there were just 2.8 reactions per million doses.

Other vaccines will follow, but not until they must meet the same high FDA standards as the two existing vaccines.

The doctor’s advice

As a frontline health care worker, I’ve been vaccinated and suggest North Dakotans do the same so we can move on. To see North Dakota vaccination locations and eligibility phases, visit the Department of Health’s COVID vaccination locator. If you have questions about whether you should receive the vaccine, talk to your physician.

Greg Glasner is the chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.