Rachelle Schultz: COVID-19 vaccines provide boost at Winona Health

We are very fortunate at Winona Health – most rural communities are not in this early vaccine process for a host of reasons.


We received our first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 17, and, after undergoing specific training about the vaccine, we began administering it to prioritized staff according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.

On Dec. 18 at 10 a.m., Dr. Joseph Kaiya, one of our hospitalists, was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Winona Health.

Thinking back to when COVID-19 came into the country and worked its way into our region, we didn’t know much about the virus we were dealing with or the overall impact it would have on our community or on each of us as individuals. We couldn’t yet fathom the toll it would take on people’s lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 has been devastating on so many levels.

As devastating as this virus has been – and it is not over yet – the fact that within one year of a global pandemic, a 90 to 95% effective vaccine has been created and distributed is truly remarkable. Unique to this situation is that global resources, in the form of brilliant minds, new technologies and financial support, facilitated the development and testing process. This collaborative effort blows the old process of creating vaccines out of the water. This is what we call breakthrough performance.

In a recent conversation with leaders from different business sectors throughout the state, one person noted that when we consider all that has happened, this experience could rival that of putting a man on the moon. That’s a bold statement, and I don’t think he is wrong. The power of global ingenuity and perseverance is impressive.


We are also very fortunate at Winona Health – most rural communities are not in this early vaccine process for a host of reasons; deep freezer capabilities being key among them. And here we are, in Winona, Minnesota, vaccinating our healthcare workers and vulnerable adults with the first round of the vaccine.

I think I can speak for our staff when I say we are lifted by the hope and positivity of what has been accomplished after a particularly long and challenging 10 months. We are all looking forward to the day (hopefully a few short months!) that there is enough vaccine for everyone who wants it – that will be another milestone to celebrate.

About our staff, I’ll simply say, I wish you could fully understand the resilience and compassion they demonstrate every single day. Their experience, knowledge, talent and dedication make this local healthcare organization one that our community can be proud of. Another wish: I want you to know how much your kind words of appreciation, your generous support and your good wishes lift everyone’s spirits.

Wishing you peace and every good blessing this holiday season.

Rachelle Schultz is president and CEO of Winona Health.

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