SIBLEY—Osceola County finished giving the first doses of Moderna vaccines to Tier 1 priority populations this week, but it could be May before the rest of Phase 1B vaccines are completed in the county.
With a waitlist of more than 800 people and just 100 new doses of coronavirus vaccines arriving per week, Osceola Community Health Services director Pam Juber said having doses to give is the limiting factor.
In a public health update to the Osceola County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 5, Juber shared that the county is guaranteed to receive 100 first doses of the Moderna vaccine to give to residents each week through February. Additional doses of the secondary or booster dose also will be provided, but Juber said she did not have an exact number.
“That’s the most predictable information we’ve received so far,” she said. “Otherwise, we really haven’t known from one week to the next how much we receive.”
Doses are being used as soon as they arrive. In less than two weeks, the county public health department finished giving first doses to Tier 1 of Phase 1B of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan.
This tier includes first responders, school staff and child-care workers as well as people 65 and over, who can receive the vaccine at any point during Phase 1B.
Juber said the department prioritized first responders, school staff and child-care workers over the 65 and over population to make sure there’s enough vaccine to reach front-line workers.
“We really felt like we wanted to get to those people right away before we opened it up to the 65 and over completely because with 65 and over, our vaccine would just disappear and we might struggle being able to vaccinate some of those key people in our county,” Juber said.
With Tier 1 vaccinations concluded, 100 people 65 and over were vaccinated in mass clinics held Monday and Tuesday. Others have received vaccines at clinics for first responders or educators where there was an uneven number.
“We’d never waste a dose. That stuff’s like liquid gold,” Juber said.
People 65 and over can sign up for a waiting list to be called in for vaccination clinics as more vaccines arrive. Juber said public health is prioritizing the oldest and most high risk individuals. The waitlist has more than 800 people, including some who are under 65 but want to make sure they are eventually in line for a vaccine when their turn comes.
Juber said next week the county will start on manufacturing workers in Tier 2 of Phase 1B as well as continuing to vaccinate people 65 and over.
Tier 2 includes front-line essential workers in food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing sectors who live or work in nonsocial distanced settings. It also includes individuals with disabilities living in home settings and their direct care staff.
Ed Jones, chairman of the Osceola County Board of Supervisors, pointed out that at the current rate vaccination for the whole county will drag on for well over a year.
“We’re trying to get through almost 6,000 people with just 100 shots,” Jones said.
“It’s going to take a while unless we get more vaccine,” Juber agreed.
She said the county’s allocation of vaccines may increase once other counties across the state have finished vaccinating their nursing home residents.
Residents at long-term care facilities in Osceola County have received their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Juber said any new residents admitted will be vaccinated by the county public health department.
She added that she hopes people understand that public health is administering vaccines as fast as it can.
“We are very busy, putting in some long days,” Juber said. “But this is what we do. This is public health response.”
The board voted to increase the county’s contribution to Osceola Community Health Services from $100,000 to $125,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year to account for the increased workload of vaccinating.
Juber noted she is required to track how many first and second doses are being administered and report them to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“The state wants us to push out at least 80 percent of our prime doses every week and if we don’t do that we run the risk of losing our vaccine,” she said. “I guarantee we will have no problem doing that.”