N'West Iowa schools get COVID-19 vaccine

South O’Brien School District superintendent Wade Riley holds up his sleeve as O’Brien County Public Health nurse Carla Starkenburg administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The district staff received the vaccine Friday, Jan. 29.

REGIONAL—The process of getting about 70 percent of the South O’Brien School District staff members their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was a smooth one, according to superintendent Wade Riley.

“It worked really well,” Riley said. “It’s just a good thing to get done and the right thing to do to try to end this pandemic.”

The O’Brien County Public Health Office visited the district Friday, Jan. 29, to administer the vaccines to staff in collaboration with the school nurse. Some staff members did not get the coronavirus vaccine since they were still recovering from COVID-19.

South O’Brien was not the only district whose staff rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine on Jan. 29.

About 50 staff members in the Sheldon School District also got their first dose of the vaccine from the public health office that day. Public health workers returned to the district Friday to immunize more district staff.

Sheldon superintendent Cory Myer joked he had not grown any extremities from the vaccine shortly after he was vaccinated on Jan. 29.

“It went really well. It was pretty uneventful,” Myer said.

Vaccination for school staff members is part of the first tier of the Iowa Department of Public Health Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which was set to begin Monday.

O’Brien County Public Health nurse administrator Kim Morran said her office received guidance from the state saying it could start Phase 1B early if it was finished with Phase 1A and had leftover vaccine doses. That’s why her office was able to begin vaccinating school staff a few days ahead of schedule.

The public health office also vaccinated 12 staff members at St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Sheldon on Jan. 29. It plans to visit the Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn School District on Friday, Feb. 12, to vaccinate staff there. It also plans to schedule a time to vaccinate staff at the Sheldon Christian School.

The public health office will return to the various schools to administer the second dose of the vaccine to staff members 28 days after they got the first dose.

Meanwhile, Morran said her office has been busy with vaccination clinics for other Tier 1 groups, such as firefighters and law enforcement officers. It also has reached out to child-care providers, who also are eligible under Tier 1 of Phase 1B.

“We pretty much have something every single day,” Morran said. “Phase 1B is huge. We’ve just got to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 1,765 O’Brien County residents had received the first of two doses of the vaccine and 400 had received their second dose, as of Feb. 5.

Vaccinations for the first tier of Phase 1B also are underway in Osceola County.

Osceola Community Health Services director Pam Juber said her office held vaccination clinics for firefighters and law enforcement officers earlier in the week. It began vaccinating staff in the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District and at child-care facilities Feb. 5.

Juber’s office also have been able to begin vaccinating county residents 65 and older, who are eligible during all of Phase 1B. The office has a list of people in that age category who public health workers can call in case there are leftover doses from clinics for different population groups.

“People have been very receptive,” Juber said of county residents on that list.

The public health agency plans on holding mass vaccination clinics on Monday and Tuesday for people in Tier 1 of Phase 1B who have not yet received their first dose. Those clinics will take place in the Osceola Regional Health Center’s multipurpose room in Sibley. People who come to those clinics must have a time scheduled in advance.

“We’re planning to vaccinate people every 10 to 15 minutes,” Juber said.

As of Feb. 5, 444 Osceola County residents had received their first vaccine dose and 93 had received their second dose.

Melissa Stillson, director of Health Services of Lyon County, said her office has likewise begun Phase 1B.

In a Feb. 4 Facebook post, Stillson asked county residents to be patient because the vaccine supply is limited and demand is high.

The office is working directly with schools in the county to schedule vaccination times for staff members. Child-care providers, social workers and people 65 and older can call the public health office at 712-472-8200 if they wish to schedule a time to be vaccinated.

About 806 Lyon County residents had received their first dose as of Feb. 5. About 210 had been given the second dose.

Community Health Partners, Sioux County’s public health agency, is prioritizing people 65 and older for vaccination due to their increased risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19 and the scarcity of vaccine doses. The agency is working with the four hospitals in the county to administer doses to people in that demographic.

“Once we begin to receive larger amounts of vaccine we will also work through the five Tiers of 1B, starting with those in Tier 1, including the schools,” said Community Health Partners director Kim Westerholm.

“Any teachers or staff members who are 65 plus and are interested in getting the vaccine should sign up for the vaccine at their healthcare provider — any one of the four Sioux County healthcare systems or Promise Community Health Center — and do not have to wait. Schools will be notified when vaccine is available. However, we anticipate it will be weeks or months before everyone who is eligible will be vaccinated.”

In Sioux County, about 3,215 residents had received their first dose and 789 have received their second as of Feb. 5.