REGIONAL—Eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines opened to all Iowa adults April 5 and those seeking vaccines have a host of options for where and when to get one.
N’West Iowa public health departments, as well as Hy-Vee pharmacy locations in Sheldon and Sioux Center, are scheduling appointments for vaccinations.
Wait times to get a vaccine appointment may vary, but public health departments say vaccine availability is growing in N’West Iowa.
Sioux County Community Health Partners announced April 8 that vaccine supplies in the county will increase.
“We are excited that our COVID-19 vaccine supply is almost to the point of meeting the demand,” said Sarah Van Wyk, Community Health Partners’ COVID-19 vaccine coordinator. “If you have been waiting for your turn to sign up, please sign up now. Wait times are minimal, and we expect vaccine to be more available over the next two weeks. Anyone who lives, works or receives their health care in Sioux County can receive a vaccine from their health-care provider or the Hy-Vee pharmacy.”
Iowans 16 and up are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Those 18 and up can receive the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but only the Pfizer vaccine has received approval for use in people 16 and up. Hy-Vee pharmacies are receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
None of the vaccines have been approved for people under 16.
People who received vaccines this week may have gotten the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but those may not be available for the next few weeks due to a manufacturing error that resulted in 15 million doses being discarded April 1.
Iowa received 45,800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the week of April 5, but will only receive 5,4000 doses this week.
O’Brien County Public Health nurse administrator Kim Morran said she is not sure if any of those doses will be allocated to N’West Iowa counties and when allocations may resume or increase.
“I don’t hold my breath until I see the order,” Morran said. “We don’t count on any more until they tell us because it’s hard to plan.”
Residency in a county is not a requirement to receive a vaccine. Hy-Vee pharmacies are distributing the vaccine to all comers and registration for appointments with public health departments does not require verification of an address.
“We’re happy to give it to anybody,” said Pam Juber, director of Osceola Community Health Services.
Several Minnesota residents received the vaccine in Osceola County during a mass vaccination clinic April 8, and Juber said she has fielded calls from people in Des Moines struggling to find appointments. Although vaccinating county residents remains the priority for using doses, Juber said the demand from nonresidents has not been high enough to cause any conflict.
“I’ve never felt like we’ve taken doses away from our own county residents to administer to folks out of state or out of county because for a long time at first we definitely put our county residents as a priority,” she said.
Although eligibility has expanded to include all adults, priority populations previously outlined in Phase 1B of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s vaccination rollout plan are still being vaccinated in some N’West Iowa counties. Where applicable, vaccination clinics specifically for those individuals are being held, but they also are able to sign up for appointments.
Public health departments say people 65 and up, who were part of that priority population, have had ample opportunity to be vaccinated if they want it. Gov. Kim Reynolds has said 80 percent of Iowans 65 and older have received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot. Morran said in O’Brien County, that percentage is likely higher.
“At this point, if they wanted it, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have it at this point,” she said.
While residents in other parts of Iowa and neighboring states have taken to social media saying they are unable to find vaccine appointments in their area, N’West Iowa seems able to avoid that problem.
Juber is considering turning down a portion of Osceola County’s weekly allocation of 100 new doses of the Moderna vaccine because she was unable to use the full allocation last week. It is the first week where she was unable to use all available doses since vaccinations started in December.
“I would say it’s slowing down significantly,” Juber said.
Immunization will be complete two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson shot or two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The two weeks gives time for immune systems to develop a strong response to the virus.
As of Monday, April 12, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported the following totals for vaccine series completion in N'West Iowa.
A total of 1,245 Osceola County residents have completed a two-dose vaccination and another 118 have received a single-dose vaccine.
In Lyon County, 2,016 residents are reported to have received a two-dose vaccine and 115 single-dose vaccines have been given to residents.
O’Brien County has vaccinated at least 3,254 people with two-dose vaccines and another 314 have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In Sioux County, 5,945 residents have received two-dose vaccines and 1,315 single-dose vaccines were administered according to most recent totals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published recommendations for what activities people can resume after vaccination. These include visiting other fully vaccinated people or with one household of non-vaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness without wearing a mask. The recommendation to quarantine after traveling domestically or internationally also has been lifted for fully vaccinated people.
Wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding medium to large gatherings, particularly indoors, are still recommended even for those who are vaccinated while out in public spaces.