Organizing the COVID response

New nurse at Health District provides vaccination and tracking support
Friday, February 19, 2021
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Disease Intervention Specialist Leann Fisk recently joined the Central Montana Health District in a grant-funded position to help with COVID-19 tracing and vaccinations.
Photo by Deb Hill

There’s a new job at the Central Montana Health District, and a new person filling it. Leann Fisk, R.N., is the District’s newest addition, filling the position of Disease Intervention Specialist.
Fisk’s position, which is funded through COVID grant money, gives her responsibility for contact investigation and follow up, vaccination clinics, ordering vaccines and supplies and speaking with schools and hospitals about their COVID-19 situation and response.
Fisk said funding for her position is for two years, and she is already extremely busy.
“We are doing vaccination clinics for five counties and people are beating down the door to get in,” she said, explaining there has been very good acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine here in Central Montana.
Unfortunately, there is more interest in receiving the vaccine than can be met.

“We have a waiting list of about 600 people, but we are only getting 100 doses a week,” Fisk said. “Sue [Woods] and I are teaming up to coordinate vaccination clinics across the region.”
So far, Fisk has traveled to Winnett, Melstone, Stanford and Harlowton for clinics, and will soon be headed to Roundup, then back to Harlowton and Stanford.
Each clinic requires the Health District staff to contact people who meet the criteria for vaccination and set up individual appointments.
“This is not done by walk-in; we schedule everyone,” Fisk said. “There are 10 doses in a vial [of vaccine] and we have six hours to use it. We are not going to waste a single one of those doses.”
Fisk encouraged those who are worried about the COVID-19 vaccine to do some research.
“We are using the Moderna vaccine here. There is information about it available online in many places, including the Centers for Disease Control,” she explained.
Fisk said the District is still tracking COVID-19 cases across six counties, running the testing site at the airport and doing the contact tracing. Adding vaccination clinics on top of that makes for a busy schedule.
“We split the workload,” Fisk said. “I go out to do vaccination clinics with two office staff and two retired nurses. [Woods] handles the tracking and reporting of COVID cases.”
Fisk, who worked at the Central Montana Medical Center for 40 years, said she isn’t sure what inspired her to switch jobs, especially in the middle of a public health crisis.
“The opportunity arose and I just jumped on board,” she said. “I’m not really sure why I decided to make a change now.”
But, she added, she is enjoying the change, from overseeing chemo, infusions and radiology to dealing with the local impacts of the global pandemic.
“Some people believe COVID is not serious but the numbers tell us otherwise,” she said. “We still have testing going on. I think it’s going to take more than the two years of this grant to get everyone vaccinated and back to ‘normal’ life. We’ve learned that in the past with measles and other diseases we vaccinate for.”
Leann has spent her life in Lewistown and is married to Dale. The couple will celebrate their 38th anniversary this year. Currently their daughter, Jessica, and granddaughter Lilly (age 6 ½) live with them. Leann’s mother lives nearby.
“I’m very thankful that my mother was able to be vaccinated, and I’ve been vaccinated,” she said. “We were worried about Lilly going to school and maybe picking COVID up and transferring it to my mom. As for me, I think if we are going to be running vaccination clinics, it’s important we all be vaccinated before we start meeting the public.”

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