Linn County has only received an ‘extremely limited’ supply of COVID-19 vaccine, health officials say

A healthcare worker administers a vaccination — photo by Lance McCord via Flickr Creative Commons

Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are arriving in Iowa and Linn County “very slowly,” and supply of the vaccine is “extremely limited,” according to Linn County Public Health.

County public health and medical officials from the local hospitals urged residents during a LCPH news conference to remain patient as it might take the county longer to move to the next phase of vaccine distribution. The Iowa Department of Public Health announced on Tuesday that the state anticipates moving to Phase 1B no later than Feb. 1.

But Linn County hasn’t been allocated enough vaccines for the population included in Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and their immediate caregivers.

“Linn County Public Health has yet to be allocated enough first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be able to offer vaccine to all of Phase 1A populations of Linn County,” LCPH Clinical Services Supervisor Heather Meador said during the news conference.

“Public health officials with the state of Iowa have reported that Iowa currently does not have enough vaccine to cover the 1A population in Iowa at this time. Without an increase in vaccine supplies, we will not be able to offer all individuals identified in Phase 1A and 1B immunizations as quickly as anyone would like. It may be months until everyone in the first two phases are able to receive vaccines.”

Linn County received the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15. Meador said there are 20,000 to 30,000 healthcare personnel in Linn County. This includes licensed healthcare providers and unlicensed healthcare workers who have direct or indirect patient interaction.

Linn County has administered nearly 7,000 vaccines as of Jan. 11, according to data from IDPH. A total of 1,416 two-dose vaccination series have been completed by the county. (These numbers reflect how many doses have been administered by the county, which is different from how many Linn County residents have received the vaccine.)

With Linn County having a large healthcare workforce, Meador said it “may take longer to arrive at Phase 1B than nearby counties if the vaccine continues to arrive at the current rate.” When Linn County moves from Phase 1A to 1B depends on vaccine supply, Meador added.

“Delays in vaccinating our community are due to vaccine supplies, not the willingness or the ability of our local providers to get vaccine,” Meador said. There are nearly 100 providers in Linn County that have been approved by the state as vaccine providers.

Phase 1B calls for the vaccination of people 75 and older, as well as populations who are “vulnerable to high risk of exposure or severity of illness.”

“Some examples include individuals with disabilities living in home settings, correction facilities, other congregate settings and meatpacking workers,” IDPH said.

Health and safety inspectors will also be prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1B, as will school staff, childcare workers, first responders and “government officials, including staff, to ensure continuity of government, engaged in state business at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session,” according to IDPH.

IDPH also has three guidelines for vaccine allocation as the state moves into Phase 1B while there is a vaccine shortage.

• 50% of the vaccine allocation shall be dedicated to priority age populations and individuals of all ages with co-morbidities

• 50% of the vaccine allocation shall be dedicated to the populations vulnerable to high risk of exposure or severity of illness

• Allocations shall be monitored and adjusted to ensure efficient and timely use of all available vaccine doses

Once the county is closer to entering Phase 1B, Meador said LCPH will provide additional details on how and where eligible individuals can get the vaccine. There is currently no registry or list for individuals who want to sign up to receive the vaccine.

“We understand the frustration that the vaccine rollout has caused for many people,” Meador said. “We are frustrated as well. The vaccine supply availability is beyond our control, but we will work to continue with our amazing partners to vaccinate our community as quickly as possible.”

“We are happy to hear that there are so many people that want to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated for COVID-19,” Meador added. “However, we ask for your patience at this time, as we do not have enough vaccine to offer to everyone that wants one.”

Meador encouraged individuals who want to stay up-to-date on LCPH’s COVID-19 vaccine news to subscribe to emails or texts using the NotifyMe tool on the county’s website. The “COVID-19 Status Update” notification is under the News Flash category. Individuals with questions about the vaccine can also call LCPH at 319-892-6097.

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