COVID-19 and Trust in Our Community

The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Editor's Note: The Herald-Dispatch received the editorial letter below from area healthcare providers. As an update following publication in the print edition, SEMC sent the following message:  Although the letter does not list all Sleepy Eye Medical Center providers in the signature section, each member of SEMC’s medical staff team supports its contents. Signed by: Susan Ahlness APRN, BC; Dr. Karlyn Armbruster; Dr. Adam Armbruster; Dr. Harman Dhaliwal; Jennifer Hillestad, CNP; Dr. Venkata Murthy; Dr. John Pelzel

In our community we share common desires. We all yearn to: safely gather for the holidays; give handshakes and hugs without fear; keep our families safe; preserve our health care system; safely remove our masks; lift visiting restrictions; return to restaurants and indoor sports.

Because the surge of COVID-19 Delta variant has sickened so many of our patients, we feel compelled to speak out publicly for prevention. When the patient is already ill, the treatments we can offer are mostly supportive and very expensive. Our hearts ache for the many patients we see who, being extremely weak and short of breath, fear they are going to die. We hope that no one suffers in this way. During the pandemic we would like to envision the “Heart of New Ulm” as the “Health of New Ulm,” with a goal of 80% of eligible people vaccinated.

We are in a crisis of trust that has harmed everyone. We are thankful for your trust when you come to see us, as that trust is the foundation for the care we provide. Because it will “take a village” to erase this virus, how can we as a community move forward in a trustworthy way?

First, there are some in the community who have strong convictions against vaccines. Although we don’t hold the same view, we support you in that choice.

Primarily we hope to reassure those who have safety concerns, encourage those who might get vaccinated sometime to act now, and motivate those who do not feel at risk to compassionately protect others who are more vulnerable.

When someone has cancer or a disabling injury, our community demonstrates tremendous generosity with fundraisers and other acts of love. COVID-19 attacks an individual too quickly for friends to organize a fundraiser. Let’s add “Go Vaccinate Me” to “Go Fund Me.”

We are convinced that the vaccine is safe based on the experience of 370 million doses given in the U.S. The virus, on the other hand, has already killed 42 of our neighbors in Brown County. Many others have suffered from “Long COVID,” with continuing cough, shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue and/or headaches.

Through nearly universal vaccine acceptance, the so-called “greatest generation” that preceded us overcame deadly smallpox and disabling polio. Without wide acceptance, these diseases would still be a scourge today.

Vaccine technology has made phenomenal progress in safety and effectiveness since the “live virus” vaccines given for smallpox and polio. Research on mRNA vaccines began over 20 years ago and was actively pursued during the SARS epidemic (2002-2004). So even though the pandemic required the finishing touches on the already-available vaccine technology, “Warp Speed” did not mean shortcuts were taken, but that massive resources were invested to make this vaccine safe, effective and widely available. The FDA is painstakingly cautious on your behalf. After due diligence, the Pfizer vaccine has been formally approved. The Moderna and Johnson&Johnson vaccines will not be far behind.

The mRNA vaccines send an instruction to your cells to produce COVID-19’s inactive spike protein, which is unlike any other protein in the human body. Recognizing the protein as foreign, your immune system forms antibodies against it. Those antibodies wait in your blood, ready to attack the virus quickly if you are exposed. In contrast, if you get sick without the vaccine, the active COVID-19 virus itself is being manufactured within your cells, with an estimated 1-100 billion COVID-19 viruses per patient!

The vaccine’s mRNA is destroyed by your body within hours. It is gone. It cannot get into the nucleus of cells. It cannot become part of your DNA. There is no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of miscarriage or infertility. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the vaccine for pregnant women and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommends the vaccine for women who are breastfeeding.

Know that experts in the field of immunology and infectious disease (and we as your health care providers) were eager to be amongst the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Having strong trust in the vaccine’s safety, we plan to get our booster doses soon.

Disinformation abounds. Please encourage others within your personal sphere to get the vaccine. Trust is built most strongly amongst friends and family. Share this editorial. If someone says they’re not going to be vaccinated, ask what concern they have about it. If they have strong convictions, let them be. If they have questions for which you don’t have the answer, suggest they ask one of us.

If you are an adult, please get your vaccine now. If you are a parent, please protect your children who are 12 and older.

Thank you to the staff at our hospitals/clinics, staff at our nursing homes, our EMTs, our Public Health staff, our school board, our teachers, our police and all other public employees for your service (and for bearing the inherent risks) during this very difficult time. As in 2020, you are still our heroes.


Your New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, and Springfield doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants

Dr. Aaron Adler; Dr. Bryana Andert; Dr. Adam Armbruster; Dr. Emily Bastyr; Dr. Brittany Brindle; Kristina Carlson, CNP; Dr. Daryn Collins; Dr. Andrew Dickinson; Jody Enter, NP; Dr. Stephen Gilles; Dr. Nathan Groebner; Rachael Haas, PA-C; Annette Haynes, NP; Karen Hoffmann-Distad, NP; Dr. Keary Johnson; Dr. Cori Johnson; Dr. Kara Jorve; Dr. Anas Khanfar; Dr. Joan Krikava; Dr. Matthew Lieser; Dr. Roger Lindholm; Julie Long, CNP; Dr. Herman Louters; Dr. Brian Lovig; Dr. Maggie McEvoy; Dr. Jason Mohror; Dr. Kellie Newman; Dr. Obehioye Okojie; Dr. Grace Ouyang; Michelle Owens, NP; Dr. Karl Papierniak; Dr. John Pelzel; Kitty Rader, DNP; Dr. Andrew Reeves; Raquel RoschenWimmer, PA-C; Dr. Scott Rysdahl; Dr. Nour Sabha; Sarah Sauter, PA-C; Dr. Annette Schmit-Cline; Christina Vogel, CNP; Dr. Steven Wachter; Dr. Victoria Wang